Adolescence hasn’t changed. Young adolescents still recycle the same three questions all day long: Who am I? How do others view me? And where do I fit in? I asked those questions and so did generations before me. I was awkward as an adolescent. Who wasn’t? I made poor choices. Who didn’t? The only difference was I wasn’t answering these questions online.
Today’s adolescents have a difficult road to navigate. Their frontal lobes haven’t developed any more quickly, but social media is recording their every move and decision. It actually reminds me of one of my favorite songs from high school, “Every Breath You Take”. (Make sure you listen to the song while you read this post.)
Who would have thought that a 1983 song would depict the future? Just some of the lyrics: “Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you. Every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you. Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you….”
How can we help teenagers survive adolescence in a digital age? How can we teach and not preach about the seriousness of their digital footprint/tattoo? How can we engage more students in this conversation?
After reading Jan Hoffman’s, A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives in the New York Times this weekend, I am determined to make sure that my graduate students are aware that this is something we need to address in school. It supports why we need to teach digital citizenship. Teens need to have the opportunity to talk this out and understand the consequences of their actions in today’s digital world.
This topic upsets me greatly. How do teens think this is a good idea? Why would anyone take a compromising picture of themselves and send it digitally to anyone? And why would the receiver make the decision to continue to pass it on? It baffles me. Am I old fashion? I don’t think so. In my day, which I don’t really think was that long ago, hickeys were given on the neck to show the world that you were in a relationship. I guess its a part of adolescence, a rite of passage or something. But, how do we help our students understand that an “electronic hickey” is not something you want to give or receive or forward?
It appears that we need to go back to the basics and have an open and honest conversation about respect – respect for yourself and respect for others. Our students deserve and need it. They need to take the lead in this conversation. What words, pictures and video are you taking and sending? What kind of digital trail are you leaving behind? Are you proud of it today? Will you be proud of it tomorrow? Would you like your parents to see this? Teachers? Neighbors? Grandparents? How would someone feel it they received this picture or video of their child, sibling, grandchild, relative, etc.? If you hesitate, the answer means don’t take it, don’t send it and don’t pass it on.
PS: Props to one of my graduate students @nhowley for being such a great (and patient) teacher! This is my first WordPress post with a picture!
“Surviving adolescence is no small matter; neither is surviving adolescents.
It’s a hard age to be and to teach.
The worst thing that ever happened to anyone happens everyday.”
Young adolescents rotate the same three questions day in and day out: Who am I? How do others view me? Where do I fit in? It’s a difficult age to be, to teach and to parent. As a middle school teacher, I witnessed young adolescents try on different personas each day as they were desperately trying to figure out the answers to these three questions.
Times have changed since I first started teaching in early 1990’s. The landscape now includes digital media which makes our young adolescents on patrol 24/7. They are now circulating those same three questions online using multiple platforms to figure out the answers. It is our civic responsibility to help them learn now to navigate through social media. If we are not integrating it into our classrooms and schools, we are certainly responsible for some of the awful things that are happening all over the Internet. Take for example the recent story about the “Smut List” circulating on Facebook.
Am I naive? Could things have been different if social media had been integrated into the curriculum? Would students have stopped and questioned how this list would have hurt and humiliated others on a global level? Would they have realized that the list included names that could have been their own? Those names are someone’s daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, neighbor and friend.
We need to constantly model what it means to be a digital citizen in the 21st century. What digital footprint are we leaving behind by the comments, pictures and videos that we post? Students need the opportunity to talk about this and figure it out as part of a classroom community. Please take the time to think about your responsibility to positively influence how children and adolescents treat each other in today’s digital world.
I am committed to changing the climate of how we treat others. I’m currently conducting research with one of my colleagues. Our website, Gone Virtual has more information and we would welcome your involvement and participation in our research.