A couple of weeks ago, I caught a promo for The Sunday Edition on the CBC for an interview with danah boyd. I missed the interview on the Sunday, but I downloaded the podcast to listen to while running. What I thought was fantastic about the interview was that she helped illuminate some of the challenges that parents and educators face when dealing with the way young people use digital tools.
I have felt conflicted as a teacher for some time when working with other teachers or parents to differentiate the difference between real and perceived risks online. I think that danah did a great job illustrating how the media contributes to a very high perceived risk of online interactions and contrasted it with the many policies that prevent caring adults from interacting with young people in their online spaces. So, kids at risk, who are often sharing their challenges in online spaces, can’t get the help that they should because their peers don’t know how to help them, and the adults in their lives aren’t in those spaces.
The host, Michael Enright commented on “how sad” it was that people couldn’t find adults in their lives to relate to in person, but acknowledged that it was just as sad that those same caring adults weren’t a part of the online spaces. Just like good teaching, we need to meet young people where they’re at. However, I know that I personally am very careful about online interactions with the students in my class. I’ve made a choice not to “friend” students on social networks, and I’m careful about my public profile, so that students who choose to follow me on Twitter or read my blog find a professional presence. I wonder if we will come to a time and place in our profession where that changes.
For all teachers, parents, and others who work with young people, I highly recommend listening to the interview and reflecting on how you interact with the young people in your life.