Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Help Your Students Use Their Electronic Devices Wisely

by David Torrence, Greenville High School Assistant Principal

In October of this year, Greenville High School launched its “one to one technology” initiative. The students and staff of the High School were all provided Apple iPads to be used to help teachers instruct students and to provide students a wider and more diverse set of tools for learning. This step builds upon the infrastructure improvements made at the High School over the last several years as part of the permanent improvement program to which the District committed. Now teachers can now utilize online resources for whole class and individual instruction in their own rooms. Students can access resources – including their classroom teachers – at any time and from almost any location. All of our students are now using to the kinds of tools and technology they will be using when they move from being students to being workers.

With greater access to technology, of course, comes the possibility that students will use this technology for purposes other than schoolwork. The iPad, like all other Personal Electronic Devices (or PEDs), is not exclusively an educational tool. The iPad offers its users the opportunity to use technology to reach out and connect with the world at large in a variety of ways. As our students reap the benefits of learning how to use PEDs in the classroom, schools face the challenge of teaching students how to use their PEDs in a manner that is responsible, safe, and productive.

Responsible use of PEDs has been a problem ever since people realized that they could use anonymity to use social media as a forum for mean and hurtful speech. There is no shortage of people hiding behind the anonymity of social media to say mean, hurtful, and frequently untrue things about others. This is not a new phenomenon in schools; there have always been private feuds made public by students angry at one another. Instead of passing paper notes, today’s students post their angry comments on social media. Because the idea of social media implies access to the whole world, many students come to believe that things posted about them – particularly negative things – are viewed by the entire world. It creates a great deal of anger and stress for students.

Parents and schools can work together to help alleviate much of the anxiety, anger, and stress created by social media by working together to help young people deal with social media in a healthy and civil manner. Here are four concepts that parents should keep in mind as they help their students deal with their social media issues.

Know your student’s social media outlets. Parents should be aware of what social media applications students are using. Not only should you know what apps your student uses, you should take a moment to learn about how they are used. Recognizing what apps your student are using will help you understand how your student – and his friends – are using them. It does not hurt to ask your student to share his social media outlets with you – either by letting you look at his site, or by having your student include you as a member of his or her site. This way, you can see exactly what is going on in your student’s digital world.

Parents should also know that there is an ongoing development of ways to hide one’s personal identity or their access to a social media app, so be prepared to do some research and some digging into your student’s PED. Knowing what they are using is a good first step to making sure your student is using social media responsibly.

Social media is NOT an outlet for negative speech. Some people would argue that social media is the ideal place for negative speech. After all, you do not have to give your real name; no one can see you when you are declaring your position; and, you can always deny that YOU posted any offensive remarks. It should, however, be clear to everyone by now that negative or unflattering posts create significantly more problems than they resolve.

Social media is certainly safer than having to stand up in front of people and say things that might anger or hurt the feelings of others. However, making angry or hurtful statements on social media will NOT resolve any problems between people. If anything, such actions only serve to inflame and increase the hostility between people. The old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” has never been truer than when it comes to social media. Because …

Social media is not a forum for resolving conflict. The only real way for people to resolve their conflicts is to sit down, face to face, look each other in the eye, and talk about what they feel they need. This cannot happen on social media for the reasons previously stated. There is no direct contact; there is no ability to judge the intentions or feelings of others without being in the same place as they are. Moreover, there is no sense that the individual you are dealing with is even interested in resolving conflict when you cannot see their face, or hear the tone of their voice. Social media may allow people to say things to one another, but it does not always allow us to TALK or LISTEN TO one another.

The whole world is NOT watching. After hearing of the vastness of the Internet, it is easy to believe that the entire planet views anything posted online; after all, it is the Internet. Surely, if I have a social media account, there will be thousands – if not millions – of people following my posts! Most people’s followers number in the hundreds (if that!), and a good percentage of those people will not bother to read angry or negative posts. Those who DO read negative posts will either totally believe you because you are a personal friend, and thus always side with you; totally disbelieve you because they are friends with you enemy, and thus will oppose you; or will ignore the argument all together, and probably steer clear of both the poster and the website until the hostility disappears. Just like your parents (and grandparents), the hostilities will not go much beyond the realm of the two people at odds with one another and a small, but possibly vocal, group of associates. The whole world is NOT watching... really!

Personalized social media is not going away. If parents work with their children to help them understand how to use social media, then the experiences they have can be positive ones.

Take a moment to help your children be responsible users of social media, and both you and your children will find that social media will not have a negative effect on your lives.

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