From the “We Continue to Bury Our Heads in the Sand Department” comes the question (once again) why are we blocking Facebook instead of teaching it?

I mean really, if you’re on the board of ed, sitting in the superintendent’s chair, serving as principal, or even “just” a parent, how can the following reality not cause you to call a meeting and get Facebook into the currciulum:

  • Upwards of 75% of the kids in your high school use Facebook.
  • You need a manual to figure out how to appropriately set your privacy settings on Facebook.
  • Because of that (to some extent, at least), lots of your kids are doing not so great things in public that might get them into trouble. (See below.)
  • Most of the younger kids in your system are going to be on Facebook when they are in your high school.
  • No one is teaching them.

Instead of teaching it, we block it. What are we afraid of? It’s not predation, though we continue to use that as the “Be Very Scared of Social Networks” part of the limited online safety curriculum that most schools do have. It’s all about reputation, and there a lots of folks out there right now damaging their reputations on Facebook, many because they don’t know any better.

For you adults in the room, here’s an experiment. Go to Openbook, a new site that searches through all public accounts at Facebook, and enter your favorite bad word of the day. Be prepared…not only for some pretty vile stuff, but from much of it being posted by kids. A (somewhat censored) case in point:

Look, I don’t know how many of these kids are just angry and won’t be helped by any type of teaching. Nor do I know how many of them (or the adults that show up in the results) are just ignorant about what they are doing, or how many of them know and don’t care, or even if posts like these are just a part of youth culture.  (I hope not.) But here is what I do know: the whole private/public thing is a mess right now. danah boyd sums this up really well in what I think is a must read post for educators titled “Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)“:

Over and over again, I find that people’s mental model of who can see what doesn’t match up with reality. People think “everyone” includes everyone who searches for them on Facebook. They never imagine that “everyone” includes every third party sucking up data for goddess only knows what purpose. They think that if they lock down everything in the settings that they see, that they’re completely locked down. They don’t get that their friends lists, interests, likes, primary photo, affiliations, and other content is publicly accessible.

Interestingly, danah points out that new research is imminent that says “youth are actually much more concerned about exposure than adults these days,” an idea I can attest to with my own kids. But the point remains that whether we like it or not, Facebook has become such an integral part of the culture, especially our kids’ cultures, that to not provide them with some context  for both their actions there and the opportunities for learning in similar spaces is to leave them uneducated.

I know Facebook isn’t on the test, but c’mon. It’s time it becomes a part of how we help kids live in this world.