Sunday, January 12, 2014


Middle school teachers in New Jersey may be soon designing units around the intricacies of social media.  If a proposed bill passes, social media instruction will become mandatory:
A new bill would make a social media class mandatory for all sixth-through-eighth grade students in New Jersey Public Schools. 
The purpose is to teach responsible use of social media. The class would teach students about the acceptable use of various social media, cyber safety, cyber security and cyber ethics. 
A big emphasis will be on the negative consequences of using social media irresponsibly, like cyberbullying.
The text of the bill, which is expected to pass, can be found here (PDF).

I honestly don't blame New Jersey too much for this one.  

Is it "nanny state"?  Sure it is.  Is it something teachers should have to teach?  Of course not.  Obviously this is something parents should cover with their own kids.  We had this same discussion over sex ed in schools back in the day.  Parental territory.

However, when you have parents suing school districts because allegedly bullying was not addressed in the schools, or when a child commits suicide over bullying and a lawsuit is filed, or when kids are disciplined for posting pictures or video of teachers in the classroom, well, this sort of proactive instruction is bound to arise.

It's a shame, really, that it has come to this.  With new accountability standards for teachers and school districts in place across the nation (thanks to Common Core which requires a rigid evaluation system as well), teachers don't need the added burden of teaching kids how to behave.  It's unclear whether New Jersey would treat this as a full term curriculum, a two-day unit, or just require teachers to work it into their regular classes, but no matter how you slice it, it's parental territory. 


Jayhawk said...

The real problem is the idiotic court system which allows frivolous lawsuits to be entertained. Such actions should be shredded upon receipt and the filer chastized for wasting the court's time.

Tina said...

After thinking about it, I think that it can be justified in this context: when schools give each child an internet-connected laptop to use, the school then needs to provide instruction in the safe use of the tool, in the same way they would teach safety in using a welding torch or in animal husbandry or in using the parallel bars or conducting dissections in biology class.

Unfortunately, that is probably not the rational being used to mandate the instruction. School Districts have been using computers and computer skills training as a public relations carrot since the first computers came out in the 1980s, and Social Media 101 is probably one more extension of that. Which is a shame, because there are great opportunities for students to develop rich social media uses and methods that would transcend the boring note-passing behavior it is mostly used for now.