MySpace and Your School
Technology, social media, social networking may not be words that every middle schooler uses but there are very few who do not use words such as MySpace and Facebook. MySpace, while it has dropped in popularity in recent months, is still a well established social networking site. Schools cannot really afford to not have a strong position about MySpace.
Teenagers and young adults were among the early adopters of the social networking idea. The notion of hanging out with friends in the virtual space appealed to students and they were comfortable with the idea of status updates about life happenings and about links to interesting sites and information. So, today many students starting from as early as 4th and 5th grade have profiles on social networking sites. MySpace is comfortable territory for many students and schools need to have a policy on how to handle this site.
MySpace allows for organizational and business accounts other than its more typical individual accounts. Schools can use an account such as this to create a sense of virtual school community - it is a good way to reach the large network of teachers, students, parents and administrators. An active school profile will encourage people to check in there often and can make people feel more connected to the school and its happenings.
While MySpace can be useful for building a sense of school identity in the virtual world, it can quickly be a hindrance if students are allowed to access MySpace while at school. Students are at school to study and the idea is to focus on the immediate environment and to engage with the teachers and students around them. They are acquiring social skills along with their study skills and so it is best if school computers have firewalls for accessing social networking sites such as MySpace. If an individual student or a small team is assigned to work on a project at school and is researching at the computer, having access to MySpace will lead to time getting frittered away. It will reduce the amount of work done and will also impact the quality of real life interaction.
MySpace with all it's facilitating of interaction has also come under criticism for young users losing all their privacy. Information about things such as parties have become over-popularized with large groups crashing a teenager's party and there have also been instances of stalking of young victims who have shared too much private information. It seems appropriate for schools to educate their students about the dangers of over-exposure in MySpace. The fact the privacy is very unreliable in the virtual world is a lesson that every student needs to learn early on. While parents have the responsibility of communicating this to their children, schools can help the cause by reinforcing the message.
Schools will also need to figure out what role they want to play in cases of problems that emerge between students on MySpace. Cyber-bullying is a term that refers to students harassing another student and there are increasing instances of this problem. Parents sometimes expect schools to fix this problem even in the episode happens outside school hours and outside school property. The legal standing of the school in such cases is minimal and so administrators feel reluctant to get dragged into it - nevertheless, this is an issue that is going to come up in some form in most school as the use of MySpace and similar sites continues to increase.
Schools will have to stay on top of the latest developments in MySpace and have an evolving policy that allows them to be responsive to students' reality.
MySpace and Schools Insights From Other Web Sites
- How Not to Use MySpace in the Classroom - Just when you thought you could avoid yet another educational controversy breaking out on MySpace, a teacher in suburban Washington DC is finding herself in hot water for comments she wrote on her MySpace blog, and the online discussion with her students that followed.