Hello fellow bloggers! Do you ever feel that wave of panic upon realizing that your phone isn’t in your pocket? You frantically pat all of your pockets only to notice your phone sitting on the table. Relief washes over you as you check you phone. Zero notifications since the last five minutes you’ve held it. But thank God your phone is miraculously found!
I have moments like this… more than I’d like to admit. Why am I so attached to my phone? I find myself constantly scrolling through my various news-feeds, worried that I might miss out on something. In reality I’m probably missing out on whats happening in my “real life.” For example, this morning I was drinking tea out on my deck and saw a rabbit sitting in my yard. I’ve seen this rabbit a couple of times, it likes laying underneath one of our bushes. Instead of sipping tea and looking at the rabbit, I immediately took out my phone. “This would be great on my Instagram story.” I was glued to my phone trying to get the perfect lighting and zoom on my furry friend. By the time I was ready to take the picture the rabbit became spooked and hastily hopped away. The rabbit was gone and the moment was lost.
Students today will probably have the same experiences as me. The idea that children are born digital affects the way they that will interact with others. The anxious feeling of “where’s my phone!” and “Am I missing something?” is probably overwhelming. Humans are social creatures my nature. However, the rules of socialization have changed. Instead of phone calls we text, send memes and like posts. Popularity isn’t defined by how many people know you but by the number of likes and followers you have. Students today have multiple places where the individual needs to stay relevant. Nathan Jurgenson poetically said; “Twitter lips and Instagram eyes: Social media is part of ourselves.” Students not only need to be current but they also need to learn how to navigate this vast and often confusing digital world. Students need to become aware of the fact that the internet isn’t like Vegas. What happens online STAYS online.
When I was in junior high and high school there was a zero tolerance policy on having cell phones in class. This also included cell phones being used in the hallway or during our lunch hours. The reason for the strict, anti-cellphone policy was because of online bullying. The bullying ranged from mean words said over twitter to a more serious sexting ring. Where boys would get nudes from girls (targeting the younger girl in grade 10) and share it with their friends. This sexting incident got to the point where the police had to intervene because there were a lot of men in town who possessed nudes of underage girls. I was in tenth grade when this was happening. The police tried to keep this matter private; I only know about it because I played soccer with some of the girls that were extorted. When the girls involved were angry when they shared it with our team. Angry because they were the ones who were getting in trouble for sending a nude to one boy. It wasn’t their fault that the pigs at my high school were saving them and sending it around to other boys. But the teachers and counselors dragged the girls into their offices and gave them the “how could you be so stupid?” speech. I’m sure that the boys were spoken to as well, but it seemed like (although perhaps the story I heard was biased by the girls’ perspective) the girls got in more trouble than the boys. No suspensions were issued, but the strict no cellphone policy was put in place.
Now that I’m finished high school the only way I would ever come back is if I’m getting paid to do so. High school is a mean environment, social media sites like Twitter elevate that spiteful energy. People in my high school would use Twitter to be “savage” because their parents weren’t online like Facebook. Bullying is different online compared to in person. It’s easy to type something mean and press send without a second thought. I’ve had my fair share of Twitter harassment. Because of my past experiences with Twitter, I have a hard time viewing it as a professional platform. When I think of Twitter, I mostly remember the anxiety it gave me. Getting rid of social media at school didn’t solve the problem. But since the harassment did not happen during school, it wasn’t the school’s problem.
The school knew that harassment happened on Twitter. Turning a blind eye to it didn’t solve the problems, it elevated it. Since the teachers weren’t going to do anything the bullies weren’t worried about repercussions. I think one of the most important things teachers can teach about online activity is that once something is out there, it’s impossible to get rid of. When I joined Twitter again I decided I would look up my old bully. After scrolling through 5 years of mundane and sometimes racist tweets, I found the old tweets that caused me so much anxiety. While I looked through her current tweets I realized that since my school ignored online harassment, she never learned how to filter what she says online. This makes me think of the IRL fetish, “Disconnection from the smartphone and social media isn’t really disconnection at all: The logic of social media follows us long after we log out.” Perhaps she’s a different person now, but her online presence still portrays the mean, spiteful person that I knew 5 years ago.
The point I’m trying to make is that a zero tolerance policy on cell phones and social media is like putting a band-aide on a broken bone. Covering it up will only make the problem worse in the long run. Teachers should be bringing social media into the classroom as tools to learn from. If students are given opportunities to see social media as a professional platform they’ll be less likely to view it as a place where they can do and say whatever they want. Social media can’t be ignored in school because it’s an integral part of student’s lives. To pretend that social media doesn’t exist in a school setting makes it impossible for students to find balance in their real life and social media life. There isn’t a difference between online and IRL, “social media is more than something we log into; it is something we carry within us. We can’t log off.”
Although I never intend to teach high school I think that there a lot of ways that one could bring social media into the classroom. If I were teaching a novel study I would create a twitter chat where the students discuss the novel through tweets. In my younger grade classrooms I intend to use Seesaw because I think that the format is similar to other social media sites like Instagram. An activity I thought of that can hit some of the USC friendship outcomes would be called friendship Friday. During this time the students will comment on the work of others. I hope that this activity will help foster positive online relationships with classmates.