Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of what we can’t control–these are all valid concerns. Many people who do not understand or use social networking tools have fears about them. Some of those fears are well-founded. Yes, child predators have used MySpace to stalk victims. Yes, bad people have done bad things using these tools. Yes, we are obligated as parents, as educators, and as a society, to protect and monitor our most precious resource–our children.
MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking tools are not intrinsically bad. How some people may choose to use them can be bad. They are useful communication tools. Similary, cars are not bad, but some people choose to drive while intoxicated or in an unsafe manner. They use their cars in a harmful and irresponsible manner; however, the cars are not bad. They are useful transportation tools. Most people use their cars safely and in a responsible manner. Most people use their MySpace and Facebook accounts in a responsible manner as well.
These social networking sites are powerful communication tools that allow people to remain in contact with one another, regardless of time or location. Now when kids leave home and their friends to go to college or join the military, they don’t have to “leave behind” those relationships. They can remain in contact. They can share pictures and videos. They keep their relationships alive and thriving by using their social networks.
I feel a responsibility as a parent to have MySpace and Facebook accounts to keep tabs on my teenagers’ online activities and relationships. This excellent blog post by Vicki Davis gives great advice to parents for monitoring their children’s online behavior. The nature of communication allows for many ways to do so. We always pick the best and most efficient way to communicate. Young people (and a few of us older ones too!) are finding that Web 2.0 tools like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and others are often the best, most efficient ways to get our messages out, to keep in touch with others, to build our personal networks.
As an educator, my accounts have become avenues for former students to re-connect with me. Sometimes current students use MySpace to contact me with a question or to turn in an assignment if they were absent from class.
As educators, we are in a “position of trust.” We have a strong influence on the young people entrusted to us. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. Because of that position, we are held under scrutiny, examined by the communities we serve. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Part of choosing this profession is choosing to live under that public microscope. It just goes with the territory. Do I want parents of my students to look at my website? Of course I do! It’s just another place for them to be involved in their children’s education, to get in touch with me. Do I have anything to hide on my website or MySpace site? Nope.