My sixth-graders and I recently had a long in-class discussion about Facebook’s “no one under 13” rule, and about using last names on the site. I’m also a parent of young boys, and my wife and I continue to hold off on Facebook for our oldest son. I can’t imagine I am alone in wondering how to leverage the educational value Facebook while still looking out for the best interests of my students and my own children.
Connect Safely has produced a free resource for parents about Facebook. The Parents’ Guide to Facebook by Anne Collier and Larry Magid provides valuable advice for those who are completely out of touch (“What is Facebook?”), those who use Facebook themselves (how to optimize privacy settings for young people), and those with grave concerns (how to prevent suicide and harm). The guide has numerous screenshots and pieces of practical advice written in clear, concise language. I also found the companion recommended Facebook privacy settings a useful resource that I intend to send to my students’ parents.
In the conclusion of the guide, the authors wisely note:
“… just as in offline life, children need their parents’ help as they navigate both adolescence and the social Web. You can help them understand…
● How important it is for their own online well-being to be mindful of what they say, share, and upload (as well as send on mobile phones)
● How smart it is to present themselves in a positive light online
● How much better their online experiences will be if they stay on good terms with others in their online as well as offline communities.”
This guide has value for teachers as well, including those teachers who are uncertain how to navigate discussions around Facebook. We can’t ignore the phenomenon of social networking anymore. We can use the concept for discussions around learning in a digital age, however. This guide is a good place to start.