What is it with Rs in Education… This week: Root Rating?!?!

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The (anti) social media habits of schoolkids have taken up a lot of newspaper and online column space this week in Australia. The latest craze to take hold of our teens (doesn’t it seem like only last month it was planking?) is to “rate roots” via ingeniously titled “Root Rater” pages on Facebook.

For the benefit of my international readers, “rooting” is the uniquely Australian euphemism for getting to know someone very well.

The accepted protocol seems to be: root, rate and add a comment if further detail is required. Unsurprisingly, in the examples in the media this week,  this detail is not often complimentary. As well as identifying some schools where root-rating was prevalent, a fair amount of questions were asked as to what schools could do (if anything) to address the problem.

The public reaction has ranged from the nonplussed to the extreme – here’s my take on the reaction…

1. It did NOT happen in your day – Too many people equate Facebook with the note that was passed around class. Granted the behaviour is the same, but the consequences are far more extreme. One example of such a site had 1200 members and this does not account for the people who have search for and found such sites since the media exposure. And of course, unlike notes, the “Net” cannot be thrown away. Interestingly, the people who compare social media sites with notes range from (obviously) technophobe parents to (bizarrely) people who are well versed in social media.

2. Kids WON’T report it – Children don’t report bullying. The reasons are too varied and complex to go into here, but it’s safe to say, if kids won’t report what may be considered “standard” playground bullying, they are even less likely to report incidents of being the subject of Root Rater sites. There is another factor at play as well, which is unique to cyber-bullying; and that is that kids believe if they report cyber-bullying, the technology will be taken away from them. Despite it being the source of such angst, they are more worried about losing access to the phones or computers that connects them with their peers.

3. Ignorance is NEGLIGENCE – I’m not saying parents need to be able to set up a wireless network, rather they have to get their heads out of the sand and understand that kids need guidance on the net, just as they do in other areas of life (if not more so). Putting on NetNanny or similar software is only a superficial (and probably the least effective) step. Parents should be aware what, why, how and when their kids interact with the Net. Parents should help their kids navigate the online world, just as they do the offline world… and young teens should not have a laptop or phone in their room… bottom line.

4. Social Media is NOT the enemy – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, in most schools are banned. If we cannot access them in school, how can we demonstrate the amazing potential of social media? How can we teach kids how to be global online citizens? By banning them in schools we further reinforce the notion that we, as adults think social media is not important, or just a waste of time. With regard to our kids, it is not the tools that are the problem, it is the way in which they are being used. Why not engage kids in school by using these tools for good… examples like The Invisible Hearts Project or How to Build a School in 3 Hours would be good starting points to build incredible learning experiences.

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