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.