We live in a world with rapidly eroding barriers. The barriers separating the adult knowledge base form a child’s knowledge base are surprisingly thin. When the internet first posed a threat to my own children in the form of obscene material, I was all for censorship and lock down systems to help them avoid being subjected to reprehensible material available in Pandora’s box, the world wide web.
Knowledge is power and the more kids have access to detailed information, the more likely they are to share their knowledge with peers. I don’t think sheltering is such a wise idea anymore. Perhaps opening up a little would lead to actively teaching web decorum, responsible digital citizenship and more importantly how to determine fact from fiction. We need to give the students coping skills and ways to handle objectionable material in the primary years. But we as teachers must be equally prepared to handle objectionable material. Consider this scenario.
Are you prepared for this? A parent or students brings in their own camera/phone to use in school to help photograph the class party. It seems like a good idea until you place the SD card into the computer, and along with pictures of the class party, you see previously photographed pictures that don’t belong in school. What would you do? Are teachers prepared to handle this all-to-realistic scenario? Don’t kid yourself. Not only can it happen accidentally, it may actually happen intentionally.
We can’t expect to completely sanitize the schools simulating an ICU-for-learning when the kids do not have the same kinds of life support systems available in their own homes. How in the world can we prepare them for the real world if we present an unrealistic version of reality in school? Students at home use youtube, google and many have digital cameras, phones and email accounts but they are completely restricted in school. I know we have to provide a safe environment but the real world is anything but safe when it comes to media. Exposure to adult content acts like strong UV rays penetrating a child’s skin and laying the groundwork for future melanomas or in this case, what? Future abnormalities? Do we offer some kind of media sunscreen to mitigate the potential long term damage or am I overreacting?
The internet is only one of the many potentially hazardous mediums and like Oleander, it is both captivating and to the uninformed, may also become deadly. Children listen intently when they are offered knowledge they consider to have street value. In other words, if it’s worth sharing with their friends then they will hang on every word. Consequently they hang onto some of the juicier bits of conversations in TV shows, youtube clips and they look for words of wisdom from kids a year or two ahead of themselves in school. This is all part of the school sub culture of kid exchange. It’s a big reason some parents insist on homeschooling. Parents cannot control what comes out of another child’s mouth, they can only control their home environments.
Adult programming is often aimed at young children. I wonder, don’t these people have children? What are they thinking? I don’t get it. Cartoons about families who have a babies and a dogs are kid magnets. Consequently, the quirky humor of complex pop culture parodies are becomming the background knowledge our students are bringing with them into the classrooms. Does it have any redeeming value? I just see kids using it as a model to get away with offending friends or hurting feelings in the guise of humor. Is it OK if you just mean to be funny? Sounds like blaming the victim if you ask me.
Yikes! What in the world can we do? How can we reconcile the benefits and responsibilities of protecting our children, as compared to the equally important role of preparing them to become well informed responsible citizens and future leaders? in my own mind. I know that allowing children to participate in online media creation is one way to get them to realize they have equal power to create, challenge and persuade others. Perhaps this approach will make students better consumers of media affording them with a modicum of protection from fictitious an faulty messages along the way.