I have actively advocated for social media in the education system since August. I have encouraged the use of Twitter and other social networking forums. I have exemplified the benefits of broadcasting student accomplishments on the Internet. I have tirelessly worked to “enlighten” those educators who still shy away from student responsibility online. Yet I haven’t addressed the social media networking sites that were probably better off left uncreated. Exhibit A: Ask.fm.
Just yesterday, WTVM.com released an article as a caveat to parents whose children use the anonymous site. The article reports a 13-year-old girl was cyberbullied by a comment made anonymously on the Ask.fm site. This article can be found at this link: “Ask.fm raises concerns for Columbus parents.”
In November, MyFoxDC.com posted a warning to parents with children on the site, as nine teen suicides can be linked to Ask.fm in the past year. This article, titled “Social networking site Ask.fm linked to 9 teen suicides,” offers insight into why the site is so dangerous. According to the article, Robert Siciliano, a McAfee cyber security expert says Ask.fm is the new favorite sparring site for cyberbullies who want to tear people down without showing their face. “There’s no accountability with anonymity and the overall drama that takes place in social media exemplifies teen angst,” Siciliano says.
ABCNews.com reported in August of a teen’s suicide linked to bullying on Ask.fm. In this article, New York psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor is reported saying, “It’s every teen’s dream…No. 1, it’s anonymous, and No. 2, most parents don’t know about it. I think it really reminds us as parents we have to look at our kids’ online behavior as faithfully as we do with what they do offline. We’ll pay attention to their friends that we can see physically, but we need to see what they’re doing online.” This article can be found at Social Networking Site Ask.fm Under Fire For Possible Connection to Teen Suicide.
And those are only the top three stories when typing in “ask.fm news.”
I never joined the site as I was uncomfortable with the idea of people asking me questions anonymously. However, many teens and young adults are attracted to the excitement of not knowing who is asking the questions–and that people do not know when they are asking intimate questions/posting negative, and oftentimes cruel, comments. I have not done much research in asking peers what is so appealing about the site, but hope to have answers in the upcoming months. I am using my personal Facebook account to attract opinions, though this attempt has proven futile thus far.
Now I must declare the line of which I draw in the sand. When is social networking appropriate, what sites are deemed “safe” and “educational,” and who makes these decisions?
First, I believe social networking is always appropriate–but one has to make an educated decision on what is truly beneficial. Like Ask.fm, Kik, and Whisper, whose only purpose is to lure kids into revealing their secrets and true feelings about others while hidden behind the security blanket of anonymity. This leads me to the second question: What sites are deemed “safe” and “educational?” I must advise beforehand that this is solely my opinion as a high school student; however, I believe no social networking site is safe unless you have been taught how to properly use it. Now I have mentioned before, extensively in my Youtube series, the “top ten” greatest mistakes you can make on Twitter and other sites. However, those tips were not meant for the average teenager, but more for those who want to look more responsible in the eye of the professional realm. I will soon release a blog post that will detail the actions that should be avoided by young teens and adults utilizing social media not only for professional use, but for personal use as well. As soon as that is posted, I will add the link here. I can, however, provide insight into what sites I believe are safe for educational purposes.
Twitter: This is the forum in which most professionals connect with others. Of course there is LinkedIn, but I do not believe students would be as welcomed on that site as Twitter, due to the amount of followers from older professionals only interested in collaborating with other professionals. Twitter, on the other hand, is utilized by a varied age group and allows students to get on a professional’s radar. Then, student and said professional can arrange other forms of communication for more elaborate discussions.
Facebook: Perhaps after connecting on Twitter, both student and adult would feel comfortable in “friending” each other on their Facebook account, as Facebook is considered to be more intimate and personal than Twitter. If not, this is still a great forum for students to practice the Internet responsibility skills they should be taught in school, as most college recruiters and admissions investigate the activity on students’ Facebook accounts. If students are not educated on what and what not to post on such a site, then they could make an irrevocable mistake that could cost them scholarship or even admission opportunities.
Remind101: This is a cool feature for teachers to communicate with students in a formal way. Though students must share their personal phone numbers, teachers can then communicate with students as a class to prepare them for the next day in class. There will be no excuses for forgetting a book in one’s locker if a teacher sends out a reminder through Remind101 the day before. This is also imperative for students to become accustomed to, as colleges utilize text messages and frequent emails to alert students of weather complications or dangerous events on campus.
WordPress: This site is perfect for students to learn how to communicate their opinions through writing. I have always enjoyed writing essays (though I know I am one student few and far between) and even I have seen improvement in my writing since beginning this blog in August. This website is awesome for students to hone writing skills and learn how to be comfortable in sharing their thoughts on certain issues. I have also found, through this website, that I have expanded my writing talents by knowing when and where to adapt my writing depending on the audience the work is intended. For instance, I first began this blog in a journalistic style, which you can still see in my reference to people by last name. However, I grew with my blog and expanding audience, turning more to the traditional blog style of writing. This is a tool many students will need, particularly in college, when writing styles and expectations change from class-to-class depending on the subject.
Youtube: I understand this website is blocked in most schools (as it is even blocked in my own); however, this should change. Yes, Youtube has a variety of videos whose content is–to say the least–questionable. This questionable content can be found on any site, depending on the age group of the students, if you look for it. That said, my teachers have access to Youtube on their school accounts and utilize it to show 60 Minutes episodes, movies they do not physically own (such as Lorenzo’s Oil in Biology my freshman year), and even projects other students have completed to stimulate ideas.
TED talks: This is a site all students should be using at least on a weekly to biweekly basis. There are so many amazing videos that inspire people to “go out and do.” I have shared numerous TED talks on this blog and encourage both students and teachers to extract as much as they can from the site. It is what you make it, though every story is a story worth watching. These videos are also separated into specific categories, which is beneficial for students interested in a topic and want to know who to contact for more information and collaboration. Moreover, through my search for a college to attend next year, I have sat in on a few classes during campus visits, and, more often than not, learn that most professors use TED talks to teach an idea the professor themselves couldn’t as efficiently.
Instagram: Great example of this is “Using Instagram as a Communication Tool” by Vikki Smith, a teacher I met through Eric Sheninger. Smith was concerned about students sharing personal cell phone numbers; hence, she turned to Instagram to provide a safe forum for students to provide feedback on other students’ projects and to facilitate critical thinking discussions.
Of course this is list is marked by brevity, as there are countless variations of websites similar to this that educators may deem more “kid-friendly.” However, these are the websites people in the professional world are using; thus, these are the websites students should be taught how to use–in an effective, beneficial manner.