Is Hate Speech in the Connected World Here to Stay?

Expressing hate is so easy with just a few taps on the keyboard.

Expressing hate is takes just a few taps on a keyboard.

Hate speech has been around for a long time, but the connected world has amplified it. Sometimes hateful and threatening comments on social media and in comment sections feel like they are run-of-the-mill daily events. Sadly, Twitter, an awesome social media communications platform — one that I and many educators use and adore — has offered one of the easiest pathways for hate speech amplification. Twitter makes it easy to be “sort-of” anonymous.

For a good overview of Twitter’s online hate problems, take a few minutes to read Jim Rutenberg’s New York Times article, On Twitter, Hate Speech Bounded Only by a Character Limit. Rutenburg shares some of the hateful accusations he’s received and talks about the the challenges that Twitter faces with so much hateful, accusatory, and threatening speech. He notes that Twitter, which is no longer growing its subscriber base, is now for sale. Gutenberg speculates on who might purchase it. “You have to wonder,” he writes, “whether the cap on Twitter’s growth is tied more to that basic — and base — of human emotions: hatred.”                                                    Continue reading

Civility Is Now Devalued — So What Will Adults Do About It?

If there is ever a time to emphasize ideas on civility, commenting, fact-checking, and media literacy, it’s during an election. Children, preadolescents, and teens will learn much during the 2016 presidential campaign just from all the watching. (Read my post The Children are Watching and Seeing, Listening and Hearing.)

Our traditional expectations for civility and ethical behavior are cracking apart right before our eyes.

On the basis of what’s happened at recent political conventions and the beginning of the election season, young people will be witnessing name calling, stereotyping, hateful comments, online hate, and in some cases veiled bodily threats. Kids will hear things on TV at home and on the televisions that are broadcasting in lounges, waiting rooms, doctor’s offices, and everywhere else. They will hear radios broadcasting the news at home and in other peoples’ homes. And, of course, there’s social media.

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Building Ethical Thinking Skills – Thoughts on Disconnected: Youth, New Media & the Ethics Gap

In an always connected world how can we help our students and our children become better, more thoughtful problems solvers when they encounter challenging dilemmas? What can adults do to encourage young people to grow into citizens who understand how to examine issues and problems from a range of perspectives — theirs, of course, but also the possible ramifications of theirs in the context of a community where they live, with others, or even the world. Each parent and every teacher ask these reflective questions again and again as they observe young people navigating through their online lives.

The questions change a bit in the midst of a digital problem or public embarrassment, caused by misuse or misunderstandings on the Internet. In those situations it’s not uncommon to hear people, and young people especially, exclaim, “Why did I do that?” or “What was I thinking?”  Or even more often an adult asks a child, “What were you thinking?” These questions come up when there is little to reflect

In her book, Disconnected: Youth New Media and the Ethics Gap, Carrie James (read author’s bio) suggests some answers to these questions as she shares the results of her qualitative research with young people ages 10 – 25 and also with parents of digital natives. James examines the decisions that young people make and how they respond to digital life ethical problems. In her research the author documents how participants think about and solve privacy, participation, speech, and intellectual property dilemmas, finding that the most of the young people tended to examine issues and respond to problems with a self-focused perspective or a friend-focused moral perspective. Only rarely did the young subjects in her interviews engage in more complex ethical thinking by considering perspectives from the viewpoint of a larger community, a group, or even society as a whole.    Continue reading

Is It Digital Citizenship or Just Plain Citizenship?

dewey quoteAs the lives of my students, online and off, grow more complex by the day, I spend a good deal of time helping them learn more about digital citizenship. Today the digitally connected, always-on world presents students, teachers, and parents with confusing questions and baffling behavior expectations.

But wait a minute!

Is this digital citizenship or just plain citizenship? Building strong 21st Century citizens is of paramount importance whether we are living our lives offline or on, and we need to avoid using old-fashioned compartmentalized instruction in a connected world.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines citizenship as “The qualities that a person is expected to have as a responsible member of a community,” and helping students shape themselves into responsible community members is what caring adults do. We model appropriate behavior and help children learn how to participate as respectful and ethical members of society. No matter where they work or play, our citizenship goals are the same.

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Beauty Contests? What Will It Take for Us to Really Lead Our Digital Kids?

socialmediakidsIt is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever a new technology feature comes into vogue, children and adolescents come into possession of digital skills in want of copious adult tutelage.

Or at least this should be universally acknowledged.

Just now, in my part of the world, we are in the midst of an Instagram beauty contest phase. Interestingly, however, parents and educators who have spent the past 10 years connected in any way to the teen-tween digital world will recognize that, at a minimum, this is actually beauty contest 3.0.

I recall two other student beauty contest episodes, each occurring on a different digital playground. Initially they appeared on make-your-own websites, then on MySpace. Now we have Instagram.

As I said the other morning to a concerned mom, behaviors get recycled each time a neat new whiz-bang digital opportunity emerges. Typical kid behavior gets paired with a powerful app, but mostly without benefit of that adult tutelage referred to above. Also, kids love contests so it’s natural that the idea comes up.

Children are growing up in two worlds. Families and schools now have two childhood environments to supervise —  face-to-face and the digital — and kids are learning and playing in two places, irrevocably intertwined. School and home guidance acclimate children mostly to the face-to-face world, assuming that the lessons automatically carry over to digital endeavors. They don’t.

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