Skip to main content

Social Networking & Kids: Striving to Raise a Generation of Ethical Digital Citizens

Last month, the editor of asked me to write a piece on social networking and kids for their print magazine, Scoop! Here's the, um, scoop.

What is a social network? 
All humans have engaged in social networks for as long as they have been, well, human. These are the groups of people, family, friends and colleagues that make our lives rich and engaging.

Online social network services like Facebook provide a convenient means for us to interact with these people, who are increasingly spread out around the world. While Facebook is the largest online social network, it is intended only for those over 13 years old and while some parents turn a blind eye, Facebook is not a safe place for youngsters. However, there is a wide variety of social networks available where kids can interact with their friends online safely and where they can learn to become ethical digital citizens. A great resource is Common Sense Media  (, which provides great advice and website reviews for parents in our media dense world.

How can I help my child use these sites safely?  
The most important thing you can do while navigating social networking sites with children is to keep a continued conversation open about the Internet. The  first conversation you want to have is about reputation. Back in the 70s and 80s, childhood transgressions conveniently forgot themselves, but in today's digital world, kids can leave a permanent record by carelessly posting comments or photos they will regret in the future.  Everything posted online can be copied and republished indefi nitely. Nothing should be posted on the web that you don't want the world to see.

Next, have an ongoing conversation with your child about respect. Even innocent teasing can be easily misinterpreted. Some sites allow folks to hide in anonymity and kids can really hurt others. It's even more important for kids to be nice online because these interactions stick around for a long time and can be posted publicly.

You can help your children take advantage of these tools by maintaining open conversations about becoming ethical digital citizens. Resist the urge to isolate your child from the many benefits of using the Internet. Like the web, a swimming pool can be a dangerous place, but it's better to teach a kid to swim rather than lock him out of the pool until he is adult. Set boundaries, keep the computer in a central location, and use the computer together. They'll benefit from learning from you.  And you'll, no doubt, learn something from them, as well.

Popular posts from this blog

Assignment #1: Introduce Yourself

As I mentioned in my previous post, the first thing I do in class is have my students write and deliver two minute introductions. Obviously it gives me a sense of their writing and presentation skills, but more importantly it allows me to know who they are. Here's the prompt I give them:
Your first formal assignment is to compose and present a short introduction so I may better get to know you. I'm only looking for a two minute introduction. I would like you to type it out and then read it to the class. Make sure you save your work somewhere because I'm going to ask you to post it in your portfolio (more on that later). I'd like to get a sense of who you are and what your voice is. Not sure what to write? No problem ... here are some ideas to help get you started: What are you passionate about?What are some of your goals for the year? For your life?What is the most important physical object in your life? (take a photo of it and bring it to class)What is your greatest f…

A letter to my students and parents about the 20% Project

Dear Students and Parents of the York School 10th Grade Class,

I hope you all had an adventurous and energizing summer. I wanted to write to introduce myself and let you know a little bit about one of the unusual projects we’ll be taking on this year in English III.

In 2011 we began The 20% Project in English III. This is a major project-based-learning assignment that spans the entire school year and encourages students to pursue a creative interest they would otherwise not experience in our academic program at York.
Before I get into the details of the project, I want to explain why we’re asking students to participate in this activity. For over 20 years a trend in education has been gaining momentum that suggests the role of the teacher ought to shift away from an industrial model where the teacher stands in the front of the classroom to dispense knowledge through lectures, and the students sit to consume the information. Rather than being the “sage on the stage” as some …

It's time. Turn on 2-step Verification in your Google Account

If your Google account happens to be one of the billion Internet passwords The New York Times just reported to have been amassed by a Russian gang, then your docs, your mail, and your puppy photos are in the hands of a ... well ... Russian gang. Unless you have 2-Step Verification turned on.

We have no idea if any of these passwords are actually Google accounts, but really it makes no difference. The password system for proving that you are you is completely broken. Almost all passwords are weak even when websites say they're strong. If your password doesn't look like this ...
8.;=>#qH->8'6Mv  ... it's weak.

If it does look like that, then it's only secure as long as the Russian gang or any other hacker hasn't stolen it.

So far, the best way to protect your accounts is to use 2-Step Verification.

With 2-Step, access to your account requires not only something you know (password), but also something you have (your phone). After you have it turned on, each …