In a letter (scroll to the bottom) from this morning’s Post, a middle school teacher from a district just up the road from here recounted her recent trip to the local public library.
While there she noticed many kids, including “some previous and future students”, working on the computers. Upon closer observation she was “greeted with an unfortunately familiar sight: a MySpace page…”.
She then goes on to decry that “even our public libraries have been invaded by MySpace”, that students “still flock to the popular site” and post information “littered with offensive language and sexual innuendo”.
Should librarians monitor the sites used by patrons? No, she says that’s not their duty.
Should we block MySpace on library computers? That’s a “questionable practice” according to this teacher.
So, who does she think is to “blame for this invasion”? Well, that shouldn’t be hard to figure out.
The people running MySpace, of course.
But let’s look at this another way. When children are growing up, parents, teachers and other adults teach them how to communicate verbally as well as in writing.
Kids, of course, learn other forms of language from their peers, often the kind this teacher has observed on MySpace.
Fortunately, by the time people become adults, most have also learned to be discriminating in the language they use for different situations.
However, when do kids learn to do the same thing about communicating online?
It’s likely not coming from their parents since most of them don’t understand the process themselves. Most are certainly not learning it at school.
Our students are learning how to live online, on sites like MySpace and elsewhere, through a combination of experimentation and by the example of their friends.
The bottom line is that the concerns of this teacher and many others, while real and important, are not the result of negligence on the part of any of the many social networking sites.
Kids need to be taught how to communicate online as well as in other more traditional forms. Otherwise they pick it up on their own, not always with the results we might want.
I am very entertained by (at least) two things:
1) the letter’s author saw no issues with secretly watching what other people were doing on the library’s computers.
2) the letter’s author didn’t recognize that the statements about materials being appropriate for multiple ages (or not) are also very relevant to libraries, the contents of books, book banning, etc. …and most of the statements about allowing multiple ages in an -online- community can also be applied to allowing multiple ages to mingle in any real world space.