I am a tattle tale.
In the past month I've spied posts by young people on Facebook that have made me cringe. Whether it's an image meant to elicit guilt if you don't 'like' it, or a post that is offensive, my response has been to tell the parents. I tattled. Sometimes I've even commented in full teacher-mode. I can only imagine what the kids must think. I am that annoying grownup.
I don't actually make it a habit to be friends with youth on Facebook; those that are my friends are usually family. Sometimes I wonder if I really want to be friends with anyone who isn't at least 25, family included. There are just some things I don't want to know. That said, I know that the parents in question work very hard to try to impart good manners and good choice-making on their young Facebook-using kids. Having another eye on what's happening has proven helpful (even if it makes me a tattletale).
We need to form digital villages for our youth.
Based on what I've seen from the posts made by friends of my young friends, family monitoring and involvement isn't common or the kiddos are getting really good at hiding their digital lives from the adults in charge. Some of the comments....just use your imagination. You won't be far off. Regardless of why it's happening, adults need to be more participatory in the digital lives of youth, especially those in our families and friendship circles. As a teacher, I don't feel comfortable being friends with current students. Some teachers disagree with me and have found involvement in social networking with students to be beneficial. They have joined "the village" and participate in modeling ethical behavior and good decision-making. I feel much more comfortable doing this with young people who are part of my family. Either way, we can all help model what we want the digital world to look like for youth.
We hear a lot about how comfortable teens and young adults are with technology. Are they digital natives? Yes, they've never known anything different. Are they digitally wise? Not inherently. It isn't in their genetic code or embedded in their brain matter. We've discussed in previous posts how difficult it is for young people to instinctively understand long term consequences. Their brain development just isn't there yet. A comfort level or base of skills and knowledge doesn't always equal wisdom. What a young person finds funny can be crass and offensive to others and group-think can play an important role in why decisions (especially the bad ones) get made so quickly: everyone else 'liked' it, so it can't be that bad.
Parents can't do it alone.
In our culture, parents have the right and the responsibility to be the primary role models, rule setters and disciplinarians for their children. But that's a heavy burden. It means being the bad guy a lot of the time and it also means hearing, "But that's not fair! Brenda (or Bobby's) parents let her (use Facebook, stay out late, have a cell phone, etc)." We've all probably heard this (or said it!) before. We know it isn't true. Joining the village and helping to raise young people, whether they are our own or not, can help. Youth will know that the village cares, and parents don't become the only voice saying the things we all know should be said.
I'm going to continue to help out where I can and at the same time pay attention to how I model my involvement in the digital world.
Will I tattle from time to time? Probably.
Will I occasionally add a comment intended to educate, re-direct or call attention to questionable behavior? Certainly.
Am I overstepping and infringing on the role of a parent? I don't think so.
My goal is to educate and inform, behind the scenes if necessary, as a member of the village. I'll also continue to monitor my own participation, especially when I get fired-up over one issue or another. I'll be supporting rather than bashing...and that gives me a great idea for another post.