Social media can be great. However the majority of us were born before any platforms like Snapchat and Twitter, were invented. So how and at what age do we teach children the appropriate and ethical way to behave online? And do adults even understand these ideas of privacy themselves? (Greenwald, 2014).
This is a question troubling many educators as the age at which children have access to the online world is getting younger and younger (Mullen, et al., 2014). More importantly, who is responsible for teaching these ethics in a child friendly, or even relatable way – the teachers or the parents? Fig 1. illustrates the percentage of children between the ages of 8 to 16 year olds who have specific social media accounts, and furthermore 75% of children between the ages of 10 to 12 have these accounts despite being legally to young to sign the terms and conditions (Jamieson, 2016).
An extension of this debate is how school children should interact with their educators on social media sites, and where should the line be drawn to protect children. It is important to note that children are not fully developed to understand the gravity of how something posted online can so easily fall into the wrong hands, and social media furthers this idea by removing the barriers between a public and private self (Daily Mail, 2014). As well as this it’s been recorded that active social networkers show a greater tolerance for activities online which offline would be considered unethical (Luby, 2012) – a notion which could be applicable to both children and their teachers.
This idea is especially poignant today considering a teacher was recently charged with 931 child sex offences after impersonating Justin Bieber to corrupt child fans into sending him naked images (Hodge, 2017). Although based in Australia the charged has victims all over the world, including 20 within the UK, reflecting how dangerous global social networks are and the naivety of children – if someone says they are one person why would they lie? Adults may recognise this as cat-fishing, but how do educators explain such a concept to trusting, and innocent children? To be brutally honest it’s very difficult- do your best, protect your own privacy and hope that your safe attitude encourages your children, or the ones your teach, to do the same.
With this in mind here is a little handy guide I made to help educators remain on the right and ethical line of using social media to influence children to be mindful and safe online:
Word count: 407 words
Daily Mail, (2014). More than half of children use social media by the age of 10: Facebook is the most popular site that youngsters join. Accessed 24.03.17
Greenwald, G. (2014). Why privacy matters. Accessed 24.03.17
Hodge, M. (2017) Justin Bieber imposter charged with 931 child sex offences after ‘duping kids, including 20 from the UK, into sending naked pics’. Accessed 24.03.17
Jamieson, S. (2016). Children ignore age limits by opening social media accounts. Accessed 24.03.17
Luby, S. (2017). Ethics and Social Media: Where should you draw the line? Accessed 23.03.17
Mullen, R., Griffith, C., Greene, J. & Lambie, G. (2014). Social Media and Professional School Counselors: Ethical and Legal Considerations. University of Central Florida. Accessed 23.03.17