An article in today’s New York Times, Online Bullies Pull Schools into the Fray, describes the enormous difficulties that texting, e-mail, Facebook, and other unlimited online activities cause for Middle School students, their parents, and their schools. Take some time to read it and reflect.
My reflection leads me to think that while cyber-bullying is the immediate problem, the larger issue is the need to change the way parents and their children think about digital tools. While me must always address problems, it seems way too late to effectively change errant digital behavior in Middle School if students have not received years of training in the art of digital citizenship long before they arrive in sixth grade.
Behavior and digital behavior go hand-in-hand. Parents regularly address civil, polite, and respectful behavior from the moment a child arrives at his or her first play-group. Does digital behavior get the same parental attention? The moment a child sits at a computer or sees mom and dad working on e-mail, the citizenship lessons should extend to the digital world. If the conversation does not start until a child gets a phone that texts and takes pictures — an entertaining toy from perspective of the youngster — it is way to late.