Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Social media doesn’t “cause” unprofessional or inappropriate behavior. It “catches” it.

Something interesting has been happening across schools and districts in response to online safety concerns.  Instead of empowering and teaching students how to harness the power of the internet and social media they are banning teachers from interacting with teachers in online spaces like Facebook. These misguided schools and districts like this one in Ontario tell educators, students, and parents that,
"The use of the Internet and social media, despite best intentions, may cause members to forget their professional responsibilities and the unique position of trust and authority given to them by society,"
Really?  Do policy makers really think the Internet and social media “cause" such behaviors or "catch" em? When we block and ban are we doing what’s best for kids or are we doing what is more convenient for those in charge who would have an easier time if they didn’t have to deal with such issues?  

The reality is that the student - teacher connection is one of the most important pieces of learning and socialization for our children and this needs to happen in both the online and offline worlds of our children.  Teachers aren’t acting inappropriate because, “The Internet or Facebook made me do it.”  If a teacher is acting in inappropriate ways online, that is an extension of who they are.  The reality is that if we can’t trust our teachers to behave appropriately online, then we certainly shouldn’t have them spending all their days with our children.  If we and do trust our teachers, then we realize they are a part of the equation when it comes to keeping kids safe.  Teachers can act as role models and guides in children’s worlds online or offline. The hard facts are that child maltreatment is usually at the hands of parents, family, friends and clergy yet we don’t have mandates or ban events like picnics, family reunions, or church. Rules and mandates should be around behavior, not “where” interaction takes place. 
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