My 5 year old son (@AadenLK78) and my 7 year old daughter (@RyleeBK) both have Twitter accounts. I can guarantee, unless you already know the value of being a connected learner, that you probably think I'm crazy right now.
"Who cares what a 5 year old had for breakfast?"
"What does a 7 year old have to share on Twitter?"
"Why would you put your children 'out there'?"
My children will grow up in an environment where they are encouraged to have a voice and opinion about the things they are passionate about.
My children will grow up in an environment where they are excited to share their learning and their ideas with the world.
My children will grow up in an environment where they are guided by a responsible adult from an early age through the tangled web of pros and cons of social media.
My children will grow up in an environment where being a good digital citizen is valued.
About a year and a half ago my Street Law students created a video about cyber-bullying. We had in depth conversations about the hurt and pain behind social media, and we shared our stories. We used twitter to ask other people to share their stories, and this is what they came up with:
These stories, along with stories of those like Rebecca Sedwick, are heartbreaking. These stories are why I have chosen to educate my children from an early age.
I would never hand kids a car and say have fun - we spend time as parents teaching them (from a very young age if you live on a farm!), they take courses, and there are guided pathways and exams to teach about responsibility. But I also would never sit a kid in a class about driving for 15 hours, have them pass a test, and declare them qualified to drive. The hands-on practice is an essential part of that. Does it work out perfectly? No, there are still accidents. We live in an imperfect world. Do I always send my text messages to the person I intended? No, because I'm not always paying attention. But my children and I have conversations about appropriate things to share and about talking to strangers in a digital world just like we do about our physical reality. Students get fire safety, tornado drills, and character lessons from PreK on - where is the digital safety/citizenship piece of that conversation?
But while we do have those conversations, the focus is more about the good that they can do. They share their ideas, creations, and experiences. The looks on their faces when they read comments from others about their work, or read tweets written TO them, is priceless. You'd think it's Christmas morning! It's not because it's digital, it's because someone in this great big world has valued their ideas and their opinions! Feeling validated for their work at 5 years old, or 7 years old, has inspired in them a drive to create and share more.
We spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy telling kids no, no, no, and don't, don't, don't. I believe there is a place in which we can teach responsibility and accountability in schools and at home, which is why my children each have a blog (Rylee's and Aaden's) and an account on Twitter. However, there also needs to be an emphasis on the POSITIVE things we can do with social media! If we spent more time empowering kids to create something positive and amazing with their voice instead of trying to block and ban them, we might get somewhere.
My children have voices. They are passionate, creative, inquisitive individuals. They have stories to tell. I have provided them with a public, but guided way to express those qualities and stories.