img CC via flickr by bootloadA recent study showed that 74% of Parents friend Their Children on Facebook.

Needless to say, they don’t always do it just for fun.

Since Social Media mirrors the world of relationships with all its attractions and dangers, parents naturally want to keep tabs on what their offspring is doing, especially if they’re underaged.

As simple as it sounds, this monitoring is demanding more and more time from both parents and educators.

But is there really a need to monitor your kids? Isn’t that a bit “big-brotherish”?

Cyber-bullying And Its Victims

Bill Belsey, president of Bullying.org defines Cyber Bullying as follows:

“Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.”

In Vancouver, for example, 40 per cent of parents (with children from 8-18) said that their child was “involved in cyberbullying”, the Vancouver Sun reports.

A 2010 study claims that victims of Cyber Bullying are more likely to suffer depression and isolation than victims of more conventional forms of bullying because the humiliating message can reach more people faster and is harder to remove than a compromising comment scrawled onto a bathroom wall.

Websites and organizations are springing up everywhere to help counter the ugly trend of Cyber-bullying.

But the general tenor is one of fear and helplessness.

While you believe your child is doing research on his computer he might be actively engaged in launching a Cyber-bullying attack, cheering on one in progress or silently suffering the blows of being a victim.

But, not just students are affected. Teachers are suffering, as well:

According to a poll quoted by the Guardian “a fifth of headteachers have been bullied by pupils or parents on Facebook” which in many cases leads to calling the police because of violent threats and a general waste of time caused by monitoring sites as much as possible. (This is one of the reasons why privacy expert – and common-sense – recommends not to friend your pupils on Facebook.)

But how effective is this monitoring?

Cross says that “only 10 per cent of parents” actually know what their kids are up to on Facebook.

A new software therefore promises to help parents “spy” on their children without “being friends”. According to Yahoo News

The program scans Facebook profiles, communications and “friend” requests and uses algorithms to identify potential bullying, sexual overtures, or talk of drugs, violence or suicide.

But will it help?

Teaching Something You Don’t Know About Yourself

There are many attempts to create awareness of privacy and “net ethics”:

In many schools, teachers discuss the issue with their students and try to raise awareness. There are calls for more comprehensive programs. But according to a new study “Only half of teachers surveyed believe their school does an adequate job of preparing students regarding online safety.

Furthermore,only about half of the teachers or administrators said they even felt qualified to discuss topics like Cyber-bullying or online safety with their students.

But when it comes to what was actually taught in the classroom about online ethics and safety, the common response by most teachers was “nothing.”

One of the big problems revealed by all of this is that teachers in average seem to have less experience with modern (social) media than their students. This is not to say that they necessarily are less knowledgeable but in terms of daily exposure their students clearly outrank them.

In other words, it exposes a deep generation gap, one which is not just classified by date of birth but even more so by a certain sense of media awareness.

In some respects, students clearly are a lot more knowledgeable when it comes to technical aspects of using Social Media. On the other hand parents or educators might have a lot of ideas about ideal ways to behave online but when push comes to shove they lack the technical knowledge to apply their ideas.

The question therefore arises whether it isn’t a bit pretentious to teach children something that their teachers haven’t fully grasped, themselves? Shouldn’t both teachers and students learn more?

The whole issue also implies that modern media, while being a part of daily life for both adults and children often plays a somewhat marginal role in curriculums: It’s seen as something distracting from “real study” and often the only importance ascribed to it is in terms of how to research information and warning children of plagiarizing and believing everything that’s on Wikipedia is true.

(Social) Media is treated as an annomaly. Not as an integral part of being alive in the 21st century.

The drawbacks of this attitude are problematic, to say the least and expresses itself in the suffering of cyber bullying victims, whether they are students or teachers.

In other words: The failure to understand the power of Social Media is not a minor slip-up. It’s a major weakness of conventional education, potentially revealing its outdatedness on a colossal scale. Schools and parents are to prepare children for public life, how to behave, to be “respectable citizens” – and the Internet is a growing part of this public  sphere, gaining daily in importance and often over-shadowing even daily face-to-face realities.

The failure to recognize all of it is, as Cross says “like a parent giving their child a loaded gun or a fast car and not being able to track down what they are doing with it”.

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