Children will usually find a way to be children

2 Sep

Apart from the obvious safety advice there is only one piece of guidance I have given my children regarding their online behaviour. Don’t textualise anything about anyone you would not be willing to say to their face.

It could be suggested that this is one of those lessons you need to learn through experience but I’m not convinced. As a generation, mine is far more actively engaged in avoiding the physical and emotional bumps and thumps on behalf of our children than my parents’ generation ever were, with mixed results I suspect. I’ll admit that the motivation for encouraging my progeny to play nice online is not so much that it’s the right thing to do as to protect them from the almost guaranteed backlash that any careless, thoughtless words they share would engender. The unintended positive result seems to be that rather than lashing out at some perceived hurt via Bebo, they talk to me, and once we all calm down we can usually, between us, come up with a few different “takes” on the situation.

Furthermore, I extend this warning to include paper and pen. It always amazes me that anyone calling for the restriction of children’s access to technology can seriously cite bullying as the reason. Sharon McLellan, headteacher of Hoddom Primary in Dumfries and Galloway is certainly not alone in deriding social networking as the cause of bullying, when it is merely a method. One of many. In her Comment article in TESS from August 14th she laments the passing of the days of pen and paper class disruption as an

“attempt to spice up the boredom of the lesson with offers of illicit meetings behind the bike shed, arrangements scribbled hastily on crumpled pieces of paper promising delights at 7pm”

She goes on to denounce Bebo as

“a platform to ridicule and offend, the modern day equivalent of the stocks”

I do wonder if she’d sigh nostalgically on catching her pupils  texting to Bebo in class, arranging to meet behind the bike sheds promising delights at 7pm. Somehow, given the way she proceeds to claim how anti-social social networking is and how fleeting any goodness found there must be as it can be deleted with one click… I think not.

What an utterly arrogant and blinkered view!

  • Good old days (i.e. my days) = note writing = good
  • Kids nowadays = texting and social networking = bad

She does not even acknowledge the reality of vile, nasty, hand-written notes that were passed round the whole class before ending up on the desk of the “victim”.  That reality just does not fit with her rosy version of the good old days so it’s ignored. She even goes as far as to claim that

“For us, passing notes around was the way to network and being sociable was indeed our aim”

Sorry but I doubt her teachers considered it so. Mine certainly didn’t. I remember well the fear of being caught with a note, throwing them away in a panic and growling silently at anyone who dared to try and pass me one.  I also remember the squirming  embarrassment of the author and sometimes also the victim should a teacher intercept a note and read it out for the whole class. Swiftly followed by an often painful and humiliating  punishment for anyone involved. It was awful, and it was behaviour on a par with the exact same class disruption caused by mobile phones nowadays.

To further suggest that the hand written networking was preferable to this instant delete button age because words on paper can be kept and re-read and dug out in twenty years to reminisce over makes a mockery of the pain and hurt the written word can inflict. Hurtful words on paper can also be kept and re-read and dug out in twenty years… to suffer all over again.

Condemning the tools that our children will use, indeed do use, and suggesting that they are the reason children are nasty to each other is just plain ludicrous. There always have been and there always will be children who don’t play nice and blaming the new tools they use to behave badly is as daft as blaming the old tools. And I don’t recall anyone in education reviling paper and pen.

Pointing the finger at  technology removes the responsiblity to tackle nasty, brutish, bullying behaviour where it should be tackled… with the person, not their mobile-phone.

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4 Responses to “Children will usually find a way to be children”

  1. HeatherMomo September 2, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    My note memory, that has stayed with me for 38 years, is when Jimmy Welsh passed a note to me with a request to pass it on and when I refused he immediately stuck up his hand “Miss, Heather’s passing notes!” and I got the row! She threw it in the bin without looking at it – so I got no chance to clear my name. I think I can still extract a few years bitterness out of that incident 🙂

    I agree with you though, social networking by pc is not inherently bad, but users are exposed to a much wider network of people, so are more likely to come across baddies, than if they stay in their own wee pool of real life friends. However having said that, it’s just a mathematical probability, if they have the misfortune to sit next to a Jimmy Welsh….

    • mrsw September 2, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

      Absolutely agree HeatherMomo, differentiating between friends and online contacts is a big feature of my personal “Online Safety Training For Kids I Begat”. Luckily mine are pretty good (for now!) and haven’t so far seen the attraction in collecting any online friends they don’t know IRL. I’d go as far to say there’s a touch of the social-network-snob in them that they “don’t just accept anyone, duh Mum!”

      I guess what totally narked me about this woman was her maintaining throughout the article that nothing bad was ever written down on a piece of paper. As if!

  2. Neil Tasker September 2, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    Interesting post, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with your summation. It’s the person who presses the buttons on the moby, it doesn’t do it all by itself…..although one day….
    Thanks for your visit btw.
    I’ll be back.

  3. Neil Winton September 3, 2009 at 12:09 am #

    Well said! I can only agree with you…

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