The news has been covering a recent story about a few middle school students who took cell phone pictures of girls in the locker room, then shared the pictures. The students (ages 13-14) were charged with criminal activity.
Gail Rosenblum had an insightful column in the StarTribune about using this as a time to instruct, not to punish. I agree with her 100%, and would even go further than that. While the students need to be held responsible for their behavior (they are getting many hours of community service – an appropriate response), I think adults in their lives should be held responsible as well.
Rosenblun states, “As obvious as it may seem, we need to keep explaining the rules…” She’s exactly right. Kids need to be taught appropriate usage and behavior with these tools, just like they need to be taught appropriate use and behavior in riding a bike or eating dinner. They need to know these skills in addition to geometry, history, etc.
Parents need to participate in this. Parents are often the worst offenders. Rosenblum acknowledges that adults need to follow the good behavior rules, too. A couple of weeks ago, we attended a recital at my son’s school There was a man, we assume the dad of one of the performers, sitting way in the back, in the group of 8th grade students. Was he interacting with them? Nope – he was on his phone the entire concert, except the few minutes the group that his child was performing with was on. What kind of model was this? Seeing a parent do this basically gave this whole group of 8th graders permission to pull out their phones and text, surf, etc., during the concert. That is not ok.
Teachers and administrators need to participate as well. We know this. It needs to happen. This is why saying NO PHONES or devices is not a good policy. I guarantee you the kids are using them anyway.
This school happens to have a pretty solid cell phone use policy – phones are allowed for academic reasons. I don’t have any idea what the school does to teach digital responsibility, and these things can happen no matter what you teach. But it is a wake up call to others that schools and parents MUST be teaching these expectations to students.