It’s a topic on the minds (and eyes and ears and fingers) of teens and their parents to an almost intrusive and never-ending debate about what, where, when, and how to use and communicate on social media. Now it’s come to New Jersey schools in the form of “digital citizenship.”
According to recent reports, starting next school year, New Jersey public school districts will be called on to teach middle schoolers about responsible use of social media. It will include topics such as the responsible use of technology and learning to function in an ever more digital world. Other pending legislation would require districts to create written policies about electronic communication between students and staff.
Why this, why now?
In addition to concerns like cyber-bullying, the sponsors want schools to address issues like ethics and cyber safety, not to mention the limits of Internet privacy. Legislators are concerned that students be given guidance on the appropriate use of social media and that anything put up on the Internet can become public and permanent. Students might be told to think twice before posting something that may be difficult or impossible to retrieve or erase.
Social media is a tool whose consequences can be both intended and unintended, a tool that may be replete with more risks for teens than their elders.
Schools have had many roles throughout history. Their primary mission, at least historically, has been one of teaching good citizenship. The idea being that a democracy needs citizens who understand and can function within a free and open form of government. In many ways, teaching digital citizenship is a form of good citizenship since social media spans behavior both public and private, the political and the non-political.
Schools have long had another role– that of in loco parentis, Latin for “in the place of the parent,” referring to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. That principle allows institutions such as colleges and schools to act in the best interests of students as they see fit, although not breaching their civil liberties.
It appears New Jersey’s attempt at instilling concepts and principles of digital citizenship conforms to both the state’s and the school’s mission to educate its citizens in the basics of good citizenship with all that requires, including now social media and its rights and responsibilities.
Here’s Rita Giordano’s full story in the Philadelphia Inquirer: http://articles.philly.com/2014-03-16/news/48269211_1_richard-guerry-social-media-college-students