What inner city kids know about social media, and why we should listen

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[Commentary] Are actual teachers -- that is, those employed by the school system -- tapped into the wealth of information from their students made available through social media? Likely not.

The teachers I know are often discouraged, and sometimes downright forbidden from, interacting with their students on social media. While these policies are in place to help protect both teachers and students from all manner of things, this wall of separation may be keeping teachers from truly knowing their students in a time when teens need a mentor more than ever. At a six-week workshop at Chicago’s first “Civic Innovation Summer,” a summer program designed to keep inner city kids off the streets and to learn technology skills, the adult techies learned that these teenagers were extremely savvy with privacy on social media, sometimes to the point of bafflement. And they know we’re all watching; according to their exit surveys, most students were happy to hand over their Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/SnapChat names, saying they felt comfortable with adults learning more about the realities of their teenage lives. Whether our teens will eventually regret the things they post online is the wrong debate to have—or, at least, it’s a debate we should have later on. Instead, we should be asking ourselves why we, as a society, discourage the real teachers, counselors, and principals from seeing a full picture of what their students are up to and what can be done to help.

[Cheng is Editor at Large at Ars Technica]


What inner city kids know about social media, and why we should listen