Internet: The New Frontier

My beat partner Brendan and I wrote a story this week about how social media is used by high school students. The effect of social media use in high schools is particularly relevant right now as the Missouri State Legislature is voting on how school districts will handle electronic communication between students and teachers as part of the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act.

One of the students we interviewed said that the line for electronic communication between students and teachers is a lot broader if that teacher happens to be a family friend. Brendan and I thought about contacting someone our age who had family friends who were teachers, but we realized that even though we are only three years out of high school, the social media world has changed just enough that the experience of someone our age would be different than that of current high school students.

This thought really amazed me. I got Facebook in 2005, the start of my freshman year of high school. At that time there was a Facebook for high school students and a Facebook for college students – two completely separate sites. It was big deal when the two merged and I could suddenly be friends with both of my college-aged siblings. It was an even bigger deal I found out that ADULTS could get Facebook. My mom? My friends’ moms? My teachers? (Totally friends with my mom btw.)

It’s difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of the current high school students. I’m not entirely sure how they use social media and other forms of electronic communication in high school these days, but I know it’s certainly an integral part of my college education. I’m also friends with professors as well as former high school teachers on Facebook. Would it have been weird to be friends with my high school teachers while I was still in their class? Yes. Definitely. But I wouldn’t want to think that I wouldn’t be able to send my teacher a message via Facebook if I really needed to get a hold of her/him.

Hickman teacher George Frissell made a good point when he told us that inappropriate communication would be inappropriate regardless of technology.

“Look at other forms,” he said. “It would be just as inappropriate in telephone conversations or in a letter.”

Hmm. Something to ponder.

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