Hi everyone,

We are planning multiple initiatives this year in and around the topic of teaching safe social networking in school, utilizing sites like Imbee, Club Penguin, Whyville and even Webkinz (elementary), Ning and Teen Second Life (middle school).

How would you respond to a parent (or perhaps a colleague at school) that says "I am concerned that schools promoting the use of these types of sites will encourage kids to seek out other potentially more dangerous social networking sites on their own."

Thanks in advance!

-kj-

Tags: cybersafety, networking, parents, social

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Thanks everyone. Since posting this back in September I've continued to explore and blog about this issue and have even presented at a few conferences on the topic. Although I am still fighting the good fight at my district I am optimistic that in the end we will all get on the same page. Meanwhile I've pasted a link below to my blog, with the category I've set up for social networking:

http://www.ncs-tech.org/?cat=47

The most recent post has some 411 on a really neat, new site called WoogiWorld that looks VERY promising. Check it out when you can - it's got a great group of people behind it, a terrific user interface, and engaging gameplay!

-kj-
My response as a parent and advocate of technology. Social Networks are the same as anywhere else your kids hang out. You should be involved.

Know where they are at. Go there with them from time to time. Inspect their profile and interactions.

Be educated. Be involved!

Might as well make the best of it.
I totally agree - and since we're all preaching to the converted here - does anyone have any suggestions for reaching the adults who don't see things the way we do? I heard someone say this issue is just like Sex Ed in schools. Some people are against it because "then they'll know about it and just want to do it." Same counter argument applies - guess what - they're GONNA DO IT ANYWAY AND WE MIGHT AS WELL TEACH THEM TO BE SAFE!!! :) But, there are still going to be people who flat out say, "not my kid." So how do we get past that? -kj-
We're obviously up against some pretty strong forces, including, but not limited to, the following:

1. A media system caught up in sensationalizing events involving young people and social networking (a major "boo" goes to Dateline).
2. A society full of law suits and fear.
3. People who haven't experienced the power of social networking for their own purposes (I'm speaking primarily about many adults, including teachers/parents/admins).
4. People who don't want the world to be flat (not unlike American isolationism policy throughout our history).

Until everyone comes to understand the power of connectivity and human collaboration on a mass scale, we're going to have to accept that some people won't want their kids to participate. But I truly believe we can work to make certain that this group is in the very small minority by doing the following:

#1 Have parents listen to the Parents as Partners webcast at Edtechtalk.com!!! Actually, point them to any/all of the wonderful shows at Edtechtalk as most/all of them are relevant to parent concerns. The Parents as Partners webcast has been a wonderful addition to the other standing shows over at World Bridges (wink, wink, wink-Lorna, Cindy and Rhoda!!)

#2 Encourage administrators and teachers to engage in professional social networking, so they can understand the power behind it. If folks would just give it an honest chance I think they would find that, above all, it is pretty darn fun interacting with interesting people from all over the place! By doing this they would understand why students are so attracted to this mode of communication.

#3 Start a study group with interested parents/parent leaders in your school community. It doesn't even have to be in your community...why not apply Darren Draper and Robin Ellis' model of Open PD to parent ed? I'm actually working with Vinnie Vrotny collaboratively on a parent ed opportunity that involves a group of parents at his school down in Chicago and a group of parents from my school here in Milwaukee. Some of the things we're doing with the parents can be viewed online here: http://mstechnology.wikispaces.com/Parent+Ed . Anyway, this study group is an opportunity for parents to roll up their sleeves and use some of these tools for their own purposes. We now have a few parents who are keeping their own blogs, twittering a bit, and even facebooking! One of the parents in Vinnie's group even said something like, "I feel as though my role with technology in our home is moving from that of a policeman to that of a mentor." How awesome is that quote?!!!

Cheers!
Matt

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