We seem to have decided not to teach kids how to be citizens of the small town.
We tend to try to keep them out as much as possible, tell them it’s full of creeps and strangers (it has some, admittedly), and then when they turn thirteen, drop them legally on Main Street with a whole bunch of panicky warnings about not doing anything dangerous or stupid. Maybe we walk with them awhile, if they’re lucky.
But do we introduce them to our friends? Model for them the positive things that we do in online spaces? Scaffold them into our networks in relatively safe, supported ways so that the picture they get of the social norms of this small town is one of creativity and sharing and humour and being there for each other?
Do we create networks of supportive adults around kids – adults who know them in their day-to-day lives, who know whole groups of friends and can help them navigate the power relations of growing up from a sympathetic supervisory position while modelling humane ways of engaging with each other?
We are so terrified of the spectre of the cyberpredator – and of the possibility of being thought one – that we make it almost suspect for leaders and teachers and adult friends in kids’ lives to want to interact with them online.
I think it does the kids – and all of us – a terrible disservice.
In this post (The World’s Biggest Small Town: or, Be the Twit you Want to See in the World), Bonnie Stewart talks about her keynote on DIgital Identity – and makes some great points about kids & the Internet. Worth a read and some thought. Imagine if we helped & supported kids “navigate this world” instead of banning it out of fear?