In her article, “What Inner City Kids Know About Social Media, and Why We Should Listen,” Jacqui Cheng sheds bright light on the intersection of teens, social media and who their adult audiences are (or should be). I urge you to read the piece in its entirety, but the crux of it is this: Teenagers are acutely aware of what they’re posting and exactly who can see it.
The common belief that adolescents post incriminating or “depressing” personal content for all to see because they don’t take control of their privacy settings is simply not true. In a world where one-year-olds mistake magazines for iPads, surely we knew better. What teens are doing is reaching out. We’ve heard it all before; the more “connected” we become via social media and our various devices, the less connected we actually feel. (For the most recent, popular explanation of this, take a look at comedian Louis C.K.’s reasoning for not buying his kids smartphones. Warning: contains adult content.)
Why is this being posted on a blog for schools, teachers and educators? The article’s suggestion is: When teens post about the argument they had with their mom or how hard they partied, perhaps they’re not just “being a teenager” or puffing their feathers; they may be hoping that someone recognizes their veiled requests for connection, meaningful relationships or help. And oftentimes, the people who spend the most time with these students – their teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. – are not allowed to see these acts of outreach. So, should teachers be allowed to have an online presence? Wouldn’t knowing what a student is dealing with outside of school have a beneficial effect on the job teachers can do in school?