Dr danah boyd has posted a blog about her involvement in writing a report for Internet Safety Technical Task Force. One of the points that she raises is that "The kids who are in trouble offline are more likely to be in trouble online and offline psychosocial factors contribute to online risks". My observations of teen behaviour with my students reflect this, the students who have the most "inappropriate" material on their myspace pages are most likely to be the ones who are seeking assistance from school counsellors about troubles or fronting the administration over poor in school behaviour. This leads to the question what are we as the community, and more particularly parents and teachers to do?
My first thought is we must listen. Often risky behaviour is a cry for attention, so we need to be listening to our children and students before they get to this stage. During the last six years there have been a number of students whom I have wanted to go to the parents and tell them this. I have suggested that my principal write a newsletter article about this but he suggests newsletters are for positive things. Secondly once we as teachers and parents are listening we need to be honest and open in our talking with young people, explain why we are asking that they do/do-not do things, admit we don't have all the answers.
For many years I have been reading about "middle-schooling" a concept that blends the relationship development of primary school with the broad and deep understanding of high school by putting students in-front of only a few specialist teachers, even sharing some subject areas. I personally think that this could lead to a better social and learning environment and have volunteered to be involved in this at my school, however the way that time-tabling is done at my school it is not something that I have been able to do yet. Perhaps next year.
In the mean time I will do my best to listen to the students I have and talk openly with them, especially my year nine IT class where online issues are a major theme.