Social Networking Now a School Subject 

The School at Columbia University has built its own private social network (called The Social Network), that is describes as the “pre-kindergarten version of Facebook.” Students are initiated in the 6th grade and of the school’s 500 students, 300 are on The Social Network.  Since the school believes that students will be using social networks for “the rest of their life”, they created The Social Network in order to teach them about “the quandaries of digital life, such as invisible audiences, the permanence and persistence of things put online, and the ease with which things can be copied and pasted and appear elsewhere”.  They try to instill the knowledge that everything that is put online is permanent and traceable.  When the 6th graders are first introduced to the site, the school discusses with them the type of information that they should put on their online profiles.  “Just because there is an open cell for their mobile number or address doesn’t mean they have to fill it in,” says Blumberg; how to choose an image — what it means to choose a photo of their face, or to make an avatar, or to use a photo of a product (“like marshmallow fluff”); and what social networking terms mean — how “followers” are different from “friends.  We tell them a social network is nothing until you give it information. Until you willingly populate it, it is nothing,” says Blumberg. “And once you do give it lots of information about you, it becomes valuable.”

This article caught my attention as it relates to the topics we have been discussing in class; how it is important to censor the information we put online and how we can use social networking profiles to our advantage by creating an image that will appeal to potential employers.  We also discussed how the younger generation tends to leave their profiles public, seemingly unaware of the dangers of letting people you do not know view your private information.  The article also mentions how some of the school’s students have Facebook accounts before they are 13 years old and discusses instances where the students posted videos on social networks outside of the school’s private system, such as YouTube, involving a racist “skit” that, if edited or taken out of context, could reflect extremely poorly on the students.  The school held assemblies and discussed with the students the dangers of posting this type of information online, where it can be copied by others.  I think the school is taking the right approach at teaching kids the appropriate social network etiquette at a young age.  Social media will continue to play an increasingly important role in our lives and it is imperative that people understand the full impact that the information provided will have on their future.

I would like to know what other in the class think about social networking in the school curriculum.   Is it appropriate to teach these young kids how to use these sites?

Should high school and colleges pick up on this as well? 

Perhaps college career centers should implement social networking seminars; just as schools help students build their resumes, perhaps they should also start teaching students how to prepare their social network profiles as they begin to search for jobs.


2 thoughts on “Social Networking Now a School Subject

  1. I think what The School at Columbia University is doing is outstanding. If I had elementary school kids, I would absolutely want them to learn the “do’s and don’t’s” of social media etiquette as soon as they learned how to use a computer. There are a multitude of reasons that social media belongs in the classroom starting in elementary school – below are just a few:

    -These Generation “Z” social media natives are learning at an increasingly younger age about the digital and social media landscape on their own anyway, so why not give them a structured, comprehensive social media curriculum and the educational tools they need to keep them safe, responsible, smart and happy in cyber space?

    -Cyber-bullying is becoming more and more prevalent and a major problem in some schools/communities, so schools should absolutely be teaching kids conscientious “digital citizenship” and the ramifications of being a cyber-bully or what to do if victimized.

    -Social media is becoming integrated into innumerable jobs and professions today, and it will only continue to do so, thus learning social media “101” at a young age will only offer kids early, hands-on learning and training that will give them the 21st century skills they will most certainly need when entering higher-education and the workforce.

    Fascinating article – makes me wish I was in elementary school with all these high-tech, fast-paced, life-changing tools at my fingertips.

  2. I think starting to teach children entering middle school how to use forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, in a relatively safe and controlled environment is a very smart idea. The School at Columbia University is taking an active approach in making sure that students are aware of both the pros and cons to using social media and are making children aware of and accountable for their actions on such sites. As we discussed in class, digital natives have grown up in an increasingly technology based and socially driven society and have basically only been exposed to a world where people are constantly sharing information about themselves online. This has led these children to share more information than they should online and has increased the instances of cyber bullying. Like Stefanie said, I think The School at Columbia University is doing an excellent job at educating students on how to use social media in a healthy and positive way, and is making them aware of how things they most on social media sites could be detrimental to their character and reputation, without them even realizing it. I also agree with the point that College Career Centers as well as High School Guidance counselors may want to hold seminars on how to market yourself in a positive light using social media.

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