Textual Harrassment--An addition to the D.C. Curriculum


It is vitally important as 21st century teachers that we engage our students in their understanding of digital citizenship! For example, getting students to think about their online posting habits. Am I posting something that is Legal, Appropriate, Responsible, and Kind (L.A.R.K)? Am I protecting myself, my computer, and my network by "thinking before I click?" As a Christian, can I Google myself and find a positive digital footprint?

These are only a few important concepts, but right now I'm struggling with how to handle the subject of online sexual behaviors?

Thanks to the EdtechTalk community for pointing me in the direction of this article from Slate on"Textual Misconduct." The number of students constantly harassing each other with texts, as well as requests for nude pictures, is on the rise. The article has me struggling with at what age level does this topic fit. Unfortunately, you'll get as many different answers as their are people, but I think the question is still legitimate.

I have broached the subject of "textual harassment" and sending inappropriate phone pictures with 6th-8th grades at school, but have not gone into much detail. So far we've framed the entire conversation around how to support a friend who might be having these issues.

I'm definitely not naive enough to think that Lutheran School students wouldn't do something as sinister as take a nude photo of themselves and send it to a boyfriend or girlfriend over a cell phone, but I'm not sure that our community is ready to have an "open and honest" discussion about it. Especially with parents decrying the evils of this new technology and it's potential to "poison the minds of our kids."

I have used the site Thatsnotcool.com, but it seems to have greater us as an individual resource for teens rather than one for the classroom (Just a heads up about the alternative life-style resources under that "need help" section. That may be a point of concern for some communities).

The balancing act that is played out in our classrooms, as it relates to student use of technology and the appropriateness of content, seems unbearable at times. As I said before, we don't want to be so naive as to think that inappropriate use doesn't happen (We've had our share of students barraging each other with texts about "going out" with other students), but at the same time we don't want to over expose them either. Is it better for students to learn about the ugliness of technology use sooner rather than later? Will they be better equipped handle situations or are they better off trying to process a request for a nude cellphone picture when it happens? What of the voices that echo our children are "growing up" too soon? Is Pandora already out of the box?

When demoing the ThatsNotCool site to our 6th-8th graders, much to my surprise, the more mature audience wound up being the 6th graders. Sure you got the occasional, "that's gross!" "Why would anyone do that?" But they were attentive, engaged, and seemed to GET IT! Instincts would tell me that the 8th graders, our more mature group (sarcasm intended), would be the target audience, but I'm not so sure.

Maybe the answer is that there is not "right time" to have these conversations? The right time for my kids, may not be the right time for your kids! But we do know that there needs to be a time. The conversation needs to be had, and I'm not sure it's taking place at home. At least yet!

So until then, how have you introduced these conversations? Are you scared? Are the stakes too high not to?

We live in interesting times.
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