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Cyberbullying pessimism

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Date posted: December 14, 2010

A blog posting by Bill Boushka about a December 5th New York Times article on cyberbullying concludes with this statement:

“The tone of the long article suggests that adults, for their own communications purposes, have let kids in on a technical infrastructure that they may be incapable of using without unacceptable risk to everyone.”

It’s an interesting take but one that is, I think, overly pessimistic.  The two-way nature of the internet can give anyone a powerful platform without any of the constraints of traditional media.  A publishing house or a TV or movie studio have legions of fact checkers, editors, lawyers, and so on who vet content for accuracy, quality, audience reaction, and potential harm.  In new media, there is nothing between a kid with a smart phone and a worldwide audience.

Does this mean that kids (and more than a few adults, by the way) are incapable of learning how to safely and effectively use these new technologies and networks?  I think not, and I see in digital citizenship a big part of the answer.

As adults, we have not done a good job of teaching kids about the digital world that they inhabit.  While we talk about behavioral expectations on the playground, in the classroom and at the mall, we don’t talk about behavioral rules on facebook, in multiplayer online games, in text messaging.  Is it any wonder that some kids think the same rules and standards don’t apply online?  Because it’s focused on the positive and effective uses of media and technology, digital citizenship offers a chance to begin those conversations in a calm atmosphere where we don’t try to scare kids by telling them all the things that can possibly go wrong.  Instead, we hone in on how they can make sure things go right.

Learn more about digital citizenship here.  Read more about the Times piece here.