Maybe I am naiive. Perhaps I am old fashioned? It’s just that I’d prefer for my kids to be kids for as long as possible.
Being a teacher, I know that ICT is a core subject, having been recognised as a vitally important element of education. We want our future generation to be as computer literate as is possible because there is no doubt whatsoever that computers are going to play a massive role in any job they grow up to do. I understand the necissity of teaching children how to browse the internet, use search engines, send email and develop a proficiency in essential computer programmes. But social media?
A year ago, my neice (who was then 11) contacted me on Facebook. She lives in Australia and over the years I haven’t been there for her as much as I would have liked. She and my sister live so far away. There are pages and pages I could write about my neice’s dad but I don’t want to and I probably shouldn’t. Suffice to say, I had to block my neice from viewing my photos, updates and posts. In the end, I ended our online friendship, a mere three hours after it had begun. It was safer that way and my sister had not been happy that her account existed in the first place; she quite rightly closed it down. I felt awful, ignoring my neice’s quite innocent pleas to be friends.
Today, my neice, who has just turned twelve, contacted me on Twitter. I panicked. I contacted my sister who said that she knew she was on there but didn’t know much about Twitter itself. In my opinion, Twitter is far worse than Facbook; at least over there, my neice can’t view the updates of adults who are sensible enough to reject her friend request. On Twitter, she can follow any undesirable she likes and view as many undesirable updates and links as they tweet. To learn that there is no age restriction left me with no choice. I had to block my neice today and it makes me feel terrible. There are many reasons why this is the right thing to do but it makes me question the whole thing.
Social media, used correctly, can open up new doors and form relationships- both working and social. BUT it needs policing. It needs parents to be fully aware of exactly what their child is doing. It needs children to be aware of the dangers and the potential for abuse.
Already this year, teaching in year four, I have been astounded at the number of primary school aged children who are more than proficient in Facebook and I dread to mention Twitter. It makes me shudder to think of vulnerable children being exposed to such an adult world. This is where I ask the question: am I over-reacting? In my neice’s case, it is her father’s influence and certain involvment in her online relationships that prompted my rejection of her ‘friendship’. In this case, it isn’t just her I am allowing access to my life. But with your average child, is there anything wrong with them forging online relationships?
In my opinion- yes. Save the scoial media and the mobile phones for when they are old enough to use them responsibly. What’s wrong with kids passing notes to and from friends, or calling on each other after school? What happened to that innocent kind of friendship? Yes, the twenty-first century is dominated by computers, but does that mean children need to be so heavily involved in them? I think we should be teaching them the basic computer skills and teaching ourselves how to keep them safe online. As government guidelines state:
image source: censorshipinamerica.wordpress.com