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.
Confusion arises because many children first encounter commenting opportunities in places where adult supervision is scarce. As a result, an impulsive idea can beat out good common sense even when a child knows better. Bottom line — response and commenting areas are not places to leave nasty, sarcastic, rude, or hateful conversation– but our children need to practice and learn about commenting as they would any other skill.
As a part of the ongoing classroom and family conversations on digital life issues, a focus on appropriate website feedback will help children develop website “street smarts” and help them to grow into more perceptive judges of what is appropriate (and what is not). Moreover, because most digital comments will be posted on a permanent website, available for years to come, children (and adults, too) need to think about writing well no matter where they upload comments.
We want children to become accomplished connected learners who expertly use digital resources to increase their knowledge and understanding, but they need to recognize that comment sections are common areas where people share information and thoughtfully examine differences of opinion. Rarely are comment forums intended to be digital playgrounds.