Technology and social networks can provide a phenomenal avenue for communication and building student/educator relationship. Students are now able to access these networks everywhere: homes, school, and any public place. Pew Research Center’s report in 2011 on Teens, Kindness and cruelty on social network sites, indicated that social media usage has become so pervasive in the lives of American teens in that having a presence on a social network site is almost synonymous with being online.
The research stated that 95% of teens aged 12-17 years are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites. The rapid growth in these social media sites has made it more dynamic and fluid meeting place due to the intensity of its usage by students. As a result of this phenomenon, educational leaders are expected to be abreast with the advancement of technology for their school communities since the changes in technology should cause them to add new policies and guidelines for safe and appropriate use of the internet, while at the same time improving their own skills in digital literacy. Educational leaders must themselves understand these technologies to prepare their students for the digital future. While technologies such as online social networks do provide a place to explore and express ideas across all social lines, these same tools that provide opportunities has also been used to victimize users.
The devastating effects of technology misuse for young adults who have been marginalized by society are being played out in the media at an ever-increasing rate. Examples of such incidents include the suicide by a Rutgers University student, as well as students in *Ohio, Missouri, and Oregon.* Pew Research Center’s report (2011) on Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites, shows that 25% of the respondents that had interaction on a social media site led to a face-to-face argument, 22% ended in friendship, and 13% reported that it made them nervous to attend school the next day. These events place a spotlight on the issues that surround technology use and misuse. It also should be a warning for educational leaders that they now need to address responsible technology use. Educators need to be helped to address some specific technological and citizenship issues like technology misuse such as Cyberbullying (Students perceived as different from what others consider the “mainstream” have always been targets for bullying.
) Most of the programs and tools are available with little direction, instruction or follow up and they end up having less than favorable results. Due to this, technology users are reaping the benefits as well as the problems. Educational leaders have a responsibility as protectors of students, and as such can become part of the problem, if they do not take proactive steps to begin finding solutions to cyberbullying and other technological issues. Now, with the ease of access and speed of connectivity, almost anyone can violate what is considered appropriate in the online world. To address this problem, all educators need to be abreast with current trends, as well as school policies, related to what is considered “inappropriate” technology use, focusing on the actions and not the individuals. Technology is changing responsibilities of all those involved, including school leaders.
As school leaders become legally responsible for dealing with the issues related to the misuse and abuse of technology in their schools and with their students, they must determine how best to address these issues as they occur.Educators need to reach out to all members of the community for assistance. The problem is not the absence of the issues but many people do not understand, or do not want to know about the issues related to technology use and misuse. Parents depend on schools to educate them, their children as well as the community members on these technological skills. Due to this, as the technology related issue increases , school related issue also increases. One key issue is the lack of understanding related to training students, staff, and faculty members in the appropriate use and etiquette for social media and ways to avoid or stop cyberbullying.
The second issue is how technology has continually aided the growth of students in other aspects of their lives i.e health, safety, and respect for others. A concern related to technology misuse is the lack of empathy that students are showing towards each other. A research conducted in the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research study showed current students were 40 percent less empathetic than survey conducted in 1979. This change can partly be attributed to the lack of emotional connection in social networking sites because of the absence of a face-to-face interaction which has made student misbehave. A typical example is students posting nude pictures or videos of their peers without taking into consideration the emotional, psychological and social effect it would have on their personality.Students of today have larger audience than the past and have the ability to connect with this audience at a press of a button, it is therefore imperative that school leaders access and utilize all the positive aspects of the new technology as they eliminate the negative facets of these tools for all students. Ignoring the problem is not the best approach but rather students should be guided and be made to know the difference between “Real life and Online life”.
Students are using tools created for adults, which requires them to become more mature in their interpersonal skills of how to balance their online life interactions with those in real life. Students need to put a “face” to their postings, and realize that they are interacting with real people, not just inanimate laptops or smartphones. All users need to regain some of that empathy and etiquette for others, to think about others and their needs, as well as their own.Though times and technology have changed, the need for basic skills in humanity are important no matter how people connect with others. We are living in a technological world with increasing online communications whiles having fewer online cues available. Building relationship among both students and leaders must be vital and encouraged using these technologies. As a step of solving this problem, Rutgers University is conducting a two-year dialogue focused on civility and helping those in the community tagged “get along and interact”.How can school educational leaders help provide the skills necessary for their students and staff? When technology is provided without direction or instruction it has the potential of causing issues with others.
In 2011, Ribble’s second edition of Digital Citizenship in Schools was released through The International Society for Technology in Education and focused on the attributes required for digital citizens . Nine elemental areas were identified that ultimately define those living in a digital society, organized under three general headings: Respect – Educate –Protect, or REP. The areas are as follows:Respect Your Self/Respect OthersDigital Etiquette. Starting at a young age, educational leaders need to begin make parallels forstudents between being good to each other both in the classroom and in the digital world. Usersneed to be provided with specific examples of appropriate action in both worlds.Digital Access.
Work within educational institutions needs to focus on all students having similardigital opportunities. Efforts should be made and monitored to ensure that all groups have access to technology and if there is not, access accommodations need to be made.Digital Law.
As in Real Life (RL), if something is taken which has value, it is stealing. Studentsneed to see the connection between RL (Real Life) and OL (Online Life) and understand thatthose basic laws apply to the OL, as well as the RL.Educate Your Self/Connect with OthersDigital Communication.
Discussions should be held with students on which situations requirewhich technologies (or media) for interpersonal interactions. Students need to have anunderstanding of how to be clear to avoid misunderstandings when there is no way to seereactions, facial expressions, etc.Digital Literacy.
As the numbers of digital tools grow, there is a need to expand on knowledge ofthe basics that can be applied to several technologies. The basic technology skills of the past 10years (e.g. understanding various word processing packages) are disappearing and being replaced by very specific new literacy skills (e.g. social networking, texting).
Digital Commerce. Students need to know how to protect themselves and their information in an online world. Students need to know which sites are safe, how much information to share, and how to protect their financial reputations.Protect Your Self/Protect Others Digital Rights and Responsibility. Educational leaders need to reinforce that the access students have online requires following the rules, or the students’ rights can be revoked. Students need to realize that when they feel uncomfortable in a situation, they need to report it to someone in authority. Digital Safety (Security).
Educational leaders need to ensure that technology tools and information are protected. Students need to also become aware that even not doing something (e.g. keeping virus protection up to date) can have an impact on themselves as well as others. Digital Health and Welfare.
Educational leaders need to understand the need for, and how to, set limits of technology use as a necessary skill for all users. Students need to understand that limits must be set to live a balanced life between OL and RL.