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Let the kids tweet.

Mobile devices are the latest tools visible in virtually any school in Ontario. They are everywhere. Every year teachers come to terms with the increase of mobile technology in education as it permeates classrooms at light speeds. Schools are redirecting their budgets to keep up with the demands of mobile technology as they pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a technological infrastructure to help sustain new trends inside the classroom. Additionally, some  schools may have fundraisers  and parent councils that contribute to more funds to purchase school technology. But there is a concern as to how safe these technologies are for the students.
The Bring Your Own Device policy adopted by many school boards in our province has created a shift in the way mobile technology is incorporated and used by teens. For teens, technology takes on multiple meanings. Its a gateway into a public world for which they do not normally have access to. A mobile device gives them a chance to take a peek at what others are saying through twitter. It allows them to share feelings through twitter, take multiple selfies depicting various emotions via Instagram, or simply update their relationship status on Facebook. Then why are parents and educators so worried about these new modes of socializing?





danna boyd (she spells her name with no capitals), a Principal Researcher at Microsoft, argues in her book It’s Complicated that teens are restricted as to where they can go and what they can do. These rules, often set by parents, may mean that the only outlet they have is through these online social platforms, or as boyd refers to these online platforms as “networked publics”. Perhaps our fears should be slightly muted if it’s just a matter of students socializing online. But it usually isn’t that easy.  
Often when we speak about teens and social media conversations revolve around cyber bullying and online sexual predators. These are two imperative topics that demand our consideration. How can we prevent cyber bullying from happening? How can we limit the chances of our students and children from being lured by sexual predators online? The answers to these questions are lengthy, but it ultimately comes down to the roll of the parent or educator. Parents need to be transparent with their children on the perils and safety of social media. They need to be open and understanding to the networked publics that their children want to be a part of in the same way as going to a school event or being part of a club or team. Educators also need to be active in showing their students the ropes of social media. This could mean simple things like what is appropriate to include in a social profile? What does an appropriate profile picture look like? Perhaps most importantly, how do privacy and security settings help avoid possible conflicts? If the discussion is open between our students, children and us then they can become more empowered to think, say, and do the right things through social media.
Many school teachers are now helping to train students in understanding how their digital footprint matters in life. How each tweet, instagram post and facebook like is ultimately a reflection of them and can help them obtain a great job and hinder their post secondary school applications. Schools have utilized social media to help increase transparency between the parent community and the student body. The sanguine parallels that surround social media can easily be seen in schools today.   
As more schools allocate money towards mobile devices inside the classroom for educational purposes,  more emphasis will be placed on the professional development for teachers who use these devices to improve student achievement. Even before this happens, a great deal of attention needs to be placed on how to educate students about their impact and presence online. This remains a conversation that needs to be continued by parents as they try to understand the social needs of their children in the digital age.  

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