This week in EC&I 821, we looked at media literacy and how digital citizenship should be taught to all ages, so people can effectively navigate the digital world responsibly. Although this week we focused on younger students currently in classrooms, I could not stop thinking back to when the internet and social media first became accessible to millennials and the amount of content that we posted. Through daily Facebook and Twitter status updates, millennials left a large digital footprint that was, unlike our Instagram posts, unfiltered.
Thinking back to how I used social media and the internet in the 2000s and early 2010s, I attributed a lot of my missteps to a lack of understanding and guidance. My parents and teachers did not use social media, so they had no context of the platforms and I was left to navigate the digital wild west on my own. Therefore, growing up, I thought that being a responsible digital citizen was forwarding email chains to my friends so that I did not experience seven years of bad luck. Unfortunately, this lack of digital citizenship and media literacy training within my generation still has implications that affect children today.
A couple of years ago, an elementary school I worked in had an incident that occurred due to a parent’s misuse of their child’s digital identity. A parent created an Instagram for their child at a very young age without much moderation. By the time the child was in grade two, they were already an Instagram influencer. This became problematic when the parent posted a back-to-school picture, which included their grade, teacher, and city location. By the second day of school, the administrators at the school started receiving phone calls from random people inquiring about the child’s school schedule and inappropriate gifts were sent to the school for the child. It became a significant security and safety threat for the school and the child.
This practice of parents sharing information and images of their children on social media has been coined as sharenting. It is just one of the by-products of a generation that did not learn about responsible digital citizenship and media literacies. Although schools are now starting to teach students about responsible digital citizenship and media literacies, a gap of knowledge exists in older generations that still impacts schools.
So, looking forward, how does the education system approach sharenting, considering both the benefits and risks it poses to students? Is it the responsibility of educational initiatives or programs to raise awareness of the implications of sharenting? If so, how do schools address parents’ differing attitudes and behaviours across various social and cultural contexts? These are just a couple of questions I am left to ponder as I continue learning about digital citizenship and media literacies.