Virtual Citizenship

So Facebook has come out with a phone…or at least Facebook Home that can be downloaded on select Android phones. Or you can buy the HTC First for AT&T.

smartphoneOr you can just not get the phone like the rest of us.

This past week I got into a conversation about the phone and Home on Facebook (the irony is not lost on me). Many of the people in my age group (mid-30′s) agreed that we didn’t want to have Facebook constantly running on our phone. We prefer to control when we look at the Facebook, not have it the main thing in our life via our phone.

Someone suggested perhaps it was more of a teen thing. I disagree with that, too, so I polled my high school classes (ages 14-18) about their social media use.

About 99% of them have a Facebook account, but few use it for anything other than connecting with family and friends. Most say Facebook is not the “thing” anymore since parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are all over it.

I look at it this way: when I was a teenager, I didn’t mind hanging out where everyone was. Football games were our Facebook back then. Everyone was there, you could talk to your friends and catch up on the “he said, she said” stuff, but your parents were over there in the stands and they had eyes and ears all over.

In order to really be ourselves, we as teens went somewhere else. And so do today’s teens.

About 80% of my 155 students are on twitter which has fewer of their parents on, and is harder for their parents to monitor. Around 75% of my students use SnapChat, a phone app that allows users to send photos, videos, and add text and drawings to people and then have these picture deleted automatically from their device within a set amount of time.

You see why teens like this.

If their parents get a hold of their phones to spy check up on them by perusing their texts and other activity, any SnapChat activity will have been deleted leaving no trace.

Before you freak out, remember yourself as a teen.

Ok. This might make you freak out more. Sorry.

But when I think about my own teen behavior, I remember having lots of “unsupervised” time at friends’ houses.  Their parents were upstairs or in another room and since they hadn’t gone all Big Brother on us and set up video cameras, we talked and laughed and did stupid crap.

SnapChat is that friend’s house that has virtually no parental supervision.  As a parent you have to assume your kid knows about it and probably goes to that friend’s house even if you tell them not to.  And you have to hope that all you taught your kid has gotten through and they are not getting in on the sex and the drugs or the bullying that may go on there.

When I got to talking to my students, it was pretty evident that they all knew what goes on on the various social networks and social apps.  They are familiar and/or use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, SnapChat, Kick, Voxer, Oovoo, and even G+. They all laugh about MySpace and call LinkedIn “adult job stuff”.

They know what we know.

They know more than we know about some things, but way less about others.

I mean, they are still kids.

Sometimes we forget that just because they may know more about how to use technology–or at least they tend to master it faster than we do–that they are aware of how to behave on it.

That still needs to be taught.  Just like my parents did all they could to teach me right from wrong in hopes that I would apply those lessons when I wasn’t under their supervision, we must still do this for our children–both in the real world and the virtual one.

Because we can’t watch all of their moves in either world.