Are We Failing To Properly Educate Our Students About Social Media?

Written by Mike on August 25, 2009

As colleges and universities, I think we’ve done a great job embracing social media as a tool to communicate with different groups of people. We’re cranking out Twitter updates, Facebook wall posts and YouTube videos.

Our current and prospective students are as well. They’re chronicling their lives and being social, which is the whole point of web 2.0, right?

One area where I think we aren’t doing as good a job is educating people about how things they post are often visible to everyone and thanks to Google, last forever.

Here’s a quick anecdote I read about this morning.

I live in a rural area of northwestern Pennsylvania. The highlight of every summer is our big county fair. Big name acts perform, animals are displayed, and a good time is had by all. This year, the fair put on a beauty pageant and they crowned their first fair queen Sunday night.

By Monday afternoon, she suddenly and without warning resigned and gave up her crown. Everyone was perplexed – until it was learned an anonymous person sent photos found on, I’m assuming, Facebook, to the local newspaper as well as pageant and fair organizers.

Here’s a quick bit from the Meadville Tribune:

The pictures include two males attempting to bite the clothed chest of a girl who appears to be Kantz. Other photos depict a woman who appears to be Kantz with a young man; some photos seem to indicate a party setting. In one picture the man is gesturing obscenely toward the camera; in another the woman is biting the extended middle finger of a male. Three other photos depict a young woman who appears to be Kantz with others while she holds an unidentifiable drink in her hand.

My question is this: who is responsible for teaching teenagers and college students about how to use these web 2.0 tools responsibly?

Is it high schools? Colleges and universities? Parents? The sites themselves? Everywhere younger people look they’re being asked to share their photos, videos, songs, blogs and more but we aren’t telling them how to do it safely.

Do you include any training in your incoming student / orientation program about these kinds of topics? I wonder how we can best educate our students – not only for their safely and well-being but also as new rules are being set out for groups of students like athletes.

Posted Under: facebook, social media, Social Networks

4 replies to “Are We Failing To Properly Educate Our Students About Social Media?

  1. Mike McCready

    I think you raise a very important point. With increased access to tools that allow freedom of speech, one has to ask is it truly free or is there a price to pay. Obviously, in the pageant queen’s case (and many others) there is a price. I heard a story of a higher education institution’s president ask to step down because of some ‘unbecoming’ behavior portrayed in his personal time on Facebook.

    So I don’t think it is just teenagers that need education, it is all of us, even those familiar with the tools. One of my old bosses said that the Internet is like a fish bowl that everyone can see into. With social media tools, the fish bowl just got bigger and more can see in.

    Good points and ones we all need to consider.

  2. Jackie

    I agree- students are posting in the ‘now’ not thinking about how it may affect their future. All students need their parents, their middle school teachers and their high school teachers to remind them again and again – it’s out there and on the web, it will come back around for all to see when you least expect it!

  3. Chad Hyson

    This has been a topic of discussion for the past few years at the University of British Columbia and has resulted in the Digital Tatoo: http://digitaltattoo.ubc.ca/ an online resource for students about Web 2.0. Even though it was created for students, it is a great resource for faculty and staff.

  4. David Dalka

    I think you are talking about a serious issue. One problem is I’m not sure the world understands all of the issues fully yet to be able to do this with any clarity and many of the “adults” don’t fully have it right yet.

    It’s not easy. If you want to take the cause to the next level, creating beta content for this would be a helpful next step.

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