It’s Something New and We Don’t Understand: On Fear, Part #2

Susannah Fox, over at Pew Internet Research Project, recently Tweeted a statistic from her organization’s Social Networking Fact Sheet — 73% of online adults now use social networking sites and 71% are on Facebook. I read her Tweet just after sharing another statistic on a recent post, Amaze Your Kids with Internet Statistics, writing that the average age of Facebook users is 41.5 years old.

who uses social networking sites

Adults Online Who Use Social Networking

My first thought was, “What happened to all of the adult Facebook fear and anxiety?” Even five years ago most adults seemed to avoid the social networking platform with its attendant loss of personal privacy.

The answer? As trendy new practices, apps, and sites become a part of life, we adults often worry especially about our kids, their behavior and safety, and what they are learning. But eventually these new things — in this case Facebook — aren’t so new anymore. We figure out how to keep track of our kids and even begin to use some of the new ideas in our own adult lives. Initially some of us use social media just to keep track of the kids or merely to connect with family members, but the fact is, we are less fearful — for ourselves or for our children. Read my story about joining Facebook.

The same thing happened with Wikipedia. First we couldn’t believe it was around, then we feared mis-information — that using it would cause our children to learn bad habits and forget to use the expert references. Finally we realized that we teach kids to use lots or resources and confirm facts. Gradually our attitude about Wikipedia is changing. Go ahead and read it, we eventually told kids, but cite it and confirm the facts with reliable reference sources.

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Encouraging Digital Kids to Write Polished Comments


Part of becoming a strong 21st Century digital learner is mastering the art of writing and sharing comments online.

If you read comments at the end of articles or blog postings, you have surely discovered more than a few inappropriate and sometimes distasteful remarks. Sometimes people leave these comments anonymously. Posted by folks who do not understand why websites invite visitors to share thoughts and ideas, many unfiltered remarks are permanently attached to websites — personal indiscretions waiting for the whole world to discover. Even leaving an anonymous comment is not particularly secure.

Read a short post and watch a video on newspaper comments, uploaded by the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Some newspapers sites, such as the Boston Globe, post a short and succinct comment policy with a link to a more detailed document.

Helping children avoid public website blunders is one reason to discuss commenting etiquette. Children don’t know or they forget that all comments leave digital footprint trails, little paths of information that last much longer than a child’s pre-adolescent and even teenage years.

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10 Ways to Help Students Evaluate Digital Information

goodwebsitebadwebsiteAlthough I am a big fan of encouraging students to begin any research project with curated resources such as the online databases at a school or public library, I know that many learners head straight for Google.

When students make garden-variety searches on Google, teach them to investigate and ask questions about what they find, especially if they are planning to use a website to learn more about a topic. The strongest 21st Century learners will make the process of asking evaluative questions second nature — examining each and every site before deciding whether or not to use the information.

Questions to Ask About Any Digital Resource          Continue reading

Removing Racist and Hateful Comments: A Simple Relevancy Test

Click to hear Tyler’s dad reading a statement after the jury returned its verdict.

After the jury announced its verdict in New Jersey I watched Associated Press video statement read by Tyler Clementi’s father. Sad and clearly with a heavy heart, he nevertheless looked to the future in a way that most of us could not have done had we lost a child the way he lost Tyler. Then I glanced down at the YouTube comments — just about every one included a gay slur or offensive language, and I was disgusted. The comments were not relevant.

Racist and hateful online comments demean writers, video-makers, and people who thoughtfully share digital content. It’s becoming tiresome. Masquerading as run-of-the-mill responses at the end of articles and videos – they are actually cyber-bullies’ remarks left here and there with the goal of offending and hurting others. The time has long past for comment and blog editors everywhere  — but especially at Google’s YouTube — to set up and enforce guidelines.

I know that the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech; however, it’s not freedom of speech we are observing but freedom to run off at the mouth and bully others in ways that are not relevant to the content. As a result we are teaching all sorts of silent lessons — the kind we don’t really intend to teach to young people as they grow up.

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10 Tips to Ensure that You Use Accurate Digital Information

Even in today’s fast-paced virtual world, these tips never seem to age. Help kids learn to make good choices.

1.  Who made the site? Is it from a university or other institution? Is it for-profit or non-profit. Corporate?  Look for an “about” link that describes the site.

2.  When was the site made and how often is the site updated? Somewhere, usually at top or bottom it should tell. Is this site updated recently?  If not this may be a reason to check out another website on your topic.

3.  Is it possible to contact the webmaster or the sponsor of the site? Is there a “contact us” link somewhere on the page?

4.  How much advertising is on the page, and how aggressive is it? Good sites that use advertising are careful to keep it from being “in your face.”

5.  Does the site state its mission? Why was it set up?

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10 Links to Help Your Family Identify Better Web Resources

Do you know how to help your children evaluate sites and make good quality choices?

Below are four links to university library websites where parents learn more about how to judge the quality of a website. Following the separate resources is a small collection of  links that can help middle and elementary school students learn how to evaluate the quality of a website.

Web Evaluation Resources for Parents

Web Evaluation Resources for Students

To learn more you can read another MediaTechParenting post, Back-to-School Digital Research Tips.