"Not it!" chimed three of us together just as the street lights clicked on.
"Gotta go," I called to my friends.
That was the family rule as I grew up: in the summer-time curfew came when the street lights beamed on; we returned to the safety of home.
Today we can choose to exist in a twenty-four-hour, perpetual world. When the street lights start their night-time watch, we've probably already spent an hour watching tv, listening to music, chatting via phone or online instant messaging, emailing whoever,or gaming in simulated or virtual worlds, etc. We no longer arrive home and close the door to the world. We could. But kids and teens mostly do not. The world, good and scary, like it or not, is available everywhere all the time.
And just as previous generations protected kids with family curfews and rules, today's families, and schools, must create structures for safe functioning in the virtual worlds. For information and facts about safety see the links at the end of this blog.
My parents didn't keep me in the house to protect me; they provided expectations of behavior through modeling, practice, and rules. They trusted me and watched me engage with others appropriately, reteaching and modeling if necessary. That's the key to our new world too: model, teach, practice, observe, reteach, trust through real experiences. The media today has hyped the fear factor in virtual worlds (see the actual research in the links below) by pulling partial facts from the data. However, a segment from eSchool News on Myth Busting, explained that most youth who met an online predator were those with troubled lives who were searching for the attention. The video panel focused on the positive: use the technology with responsibility and ethics, teaching media literacy to students. Rather than lock kids out of their new world, we must incorporate that world so we can model, teach, practice, observe, and reteach the ethics and responsible use of their new tools (email, chat, social web-sites, blogs, forums, etc.). Do we want even one child hurt? No. The only way to prevent problems is through education.
Parents, remember this suggestion: "It's risk management. If you can take a few simple steps to try to minimize that risk, such as communicating with your child. They're much smarter than we are when it comes to the computer. You have to have open dialogue. I find that the strongest weapon against online exploitation is communication, sharing your interest" (Peter Brust FBI special agent in charge, Counterintelligence and Cyber Divisions, Los Angeles FBI field office).
Communication, dialogue, sharing interests -- it's the same suggestions my parents were given -- be involved with your child.
Educators know not all of our students will have supportive and involved families. That makes it doubly important to teach media literacy so ALL students have the knowledge to be safe online and offline, and to practice those safety structures.
The school component is important because students are connected to the world and learn within a collaborative community on their own. Yet schools cut off those connections, and David Warlick reminds us this situation is "an insult to the kids and they resent it." David Warlick is an educator and edublogger.
In an interview* he continued: "According to a recent PEW Internet & American Life study, 64% of American teenagers have produced original digital content and published it to a global audience. How many of their teachers are published authors, artists, musicians, composers, or film makers? From the perspective of our children's information experience, they are more literate than many of their teachers. Our classrooms are flat."
He suggests that:
" We need to redefine literacy to reflect today's information landscape and not just teach it as skills, but to instill it as habit.
* We, as teachers, need to model learning, not just inflict it. We need to practice new literacy in front of our students.
* What students learn has become less important. The answers are all changing. It as important today to be able to invent answers to brand new questions. What's become more important is how students are learning.
* We need to understand our students information experience and learn to harness the energy that comes from it, to replace the vanishing energy of gravity."
If we collaborate with students in media literacy in real projects, students will practice appropriate media literacy in engaging ways through a different educational paradigm. In his blog about the recent NECC08 (National Educational Computing Conference), David Warlick found that "Michael Huffman, of the Indiana Department of Education, said, in his narrative about the learning that is happening in their 1:1 open source classrooms, 'our students are using their teachers.' 'Using' is new learning. 'Listening to…' is old learning." Teachers will become academic mentors, focusing students in productive, effective, authentic 21st century learning.
Our virtual world requires new learning so all our students, our children, learn the responsible and ethical rules of the virtual world. If we don't revise our schools to include the new media through which we can model and teach, practice and observe, reteach and trust, we will have hurt kids. If don't include the new virtual world in our schools, kids will continue to tune out. They want and expect more.
To protect them, we will participate as we teach them. We will watch, discuss, and observe them. We will be part of their lives. And we can use the new media to structure their world. We can txt them, chat with them, create our own family social networks online. We will model and define the process of responsible, ethical online and offline behaviors.
And what will be the new street light to bring them home? How about we type them a tweet on Twitter, and say, "Time to visit with Mom now." Street lights become tweet types.
Talk to your colleagues, family, neighbors. Tune the conversation onto kid safety and join the digital world with them. What did you discover about your kids? What did you discover about the digital world? What media ethics would you suggest? What do you recommend to families? schools?
Go boldly and scatter seeds of kindness...
Reflect curiosity and wonder...
eSchool News on Myth Busting http://www.eschoolnews.com/conference-info/necc/highlights/?i=54386;_hbguid=64297a3a-cd5f-49d6-be85-34d2eccd3422&d=aasa
Links -- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/etc/links.html
Parent guide -- http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/teach/kidsonline/pguide.pdf
* Link to interview with David Warlick:
Removing the Bricks from the Classroom Walls: Interview with David Warlick