Conversations from Home? Social Media & Teens

30 03 2012
If you’ve spent any time between classes in the hallways of any high school in the US in the past 15 years, you’ve heard it. You’ve likely heard it multiple times, playing the role of various parts of speech. I’m talking about the f-word. 

 

As a high school teacher, you might hear it so much that it doesn’t even cause you to turn your ear anymore. Besides, it’s a word. Only a word. There may be more pressing situations occurring that require your acute attention.

I remember when I was in the teacher pre-service program back in the 90’s, there was a professor who mentioned that we might choose to not hear things in the hallways. We might decide some words aren’t worth a battle at that moment. We were encouraged to weigh the rules against reality and respond accordingly; sometimes with a look, sometimes with a few words, encouraging a different phrase, and sometimes with nothing.

Some of my colleagues remembered that quick conversation. Some didn’t. Some teachers realize that people in the world are truly offended by the f-word and try to teach students that it’s not acceptable to say it at all.

Confession time

I confess. I told my students years ago that it was one of those things that if you choose to use it, you had to be smart; to know when it was and when it wasn’t appropriate to use. And that sometimes your parents may use it, but sometimes even your friends may not want to hear it all the time. But that it was a simply a word and that right then, at that moment, we were going to be moving back to our Social Studies work (or whatever work we were learning at the time).

I guess there’s a school in Indiana that recently subscribed to the belief that swift and decisive action was called for when a student used the f-word. In fact, he used it a lot. Nothing wrong with taking action in that case, right? We all make rules we expect kids to follow and have our reasons for creating those rules, right? Pretty cut and dried.

Except that the teen “said” the f-word in a tweet. At 2:30am. He was not in school and it wasn’t a school-related account.

The school suspended him.

Article about teen who sent f-word tweet at 2:30am and ended up suspended from school

Hmm. The tweet was sent at 2:30am? Hmmmm. It seems to be swampy ground, at best, upon which the school is treading.

 

Why is this important to you as an educator? As a parent?

These types of incidents are great conversational fodder for schools to have; talking with admin, teachers, parents, etc surrounding your school’s role in monitoring students’ social media use on personal equipment on personal time is important to do before an emotionally-charged situation happens. Look at all sides of the situation.

Is it about schools having responsibility to teach good online etiquette? How far do the lessons extend? Would it matter if the teen is on a school-provided device? If s/he uses the f-word in context related to the school or staff? Or peers?

Or is it about privacy? About school staying on school property and during school-related hours? Just how far do school rules reach into our private family lives?

And what’s an appropriate level of reaction to what type of event? Suspension? A harsh look? A conversation?

With potential employers asking not just for FB accounts, but actual FB passwords for pre-monitoring, is this a world into which we’ve passed, purposefully? Or have we passed into it unknowingly? Or was that entire Facebook/password/employer hullabaloo just a fake trend, based on shoddy article writing? Yes, I reviewed potential employees’ digital footprints, including Facebook, before I even called them in for an interview. Don’t you?

I guess the question and conversation starter to have is,

“What do we expect as privacy in our teen community?”

and

“What do we accept as monitoring in our teen community?”

Have this conversation many times and with many groups. Have your families talking about it. Have you staff talking about it. It’s an adaptive, not technical, problem.
And each community can have a different opinion/decision from another, based on their own community choices.

Right?

Or is it just about the rules and what we’ve always done?

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