The national curriculum must keep pace with the dynamics of the comunications market. Children need teaching the benefits and consequences in the use of social media and how it can play a significant role in modern communications.
There are significant benefits in the use of social media but there is also a dark side. As newer forms of media emerge children should be taught the skills in their effective use and the legal ethics of using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Recent events involving court injunctions have highlighted the potential legal pitfalls. Our teaching resources, already hard pressed to maintain the curriculum, have to present the legal implications of irregular use of this growing medium.
Apart from the abhorrent use associated with cyber bullying the positive flow of news, gossip and opinion is a growing phenomenon. Already schools, colleges and universities, reacting to the demand for greater ease of access to support academic activities, are reviewing Wifi connections to cover the entire campus. The integral internet connection freedom will allow its use in a private capacity to students and staff. The dilemma facing the academic management is the control between academic and private use along with the subsequent cost increase in bandwidth.
In addition to the cost of providing the service there could be the legal complications if the service is abused. At the moment the social networks attempt to fend off misuse as being attributed to the user. Understandably the complexity to control transmission would be a significant drain on their operations and the impact of further legislation on the use of the service has yet to be established.
But we also have seen an interesting development in the misuse of the social media. During the recent round of court injunctions a dam burst occurred within Twitter. The information restricted by the courts was freely revealed by thousands of users possibly fuelled by the inherent clamour to gossip on line and a belief that the sheer weight of Tweet’s would overwhelm effective prosecution. The subsequent revelation in parliament by an MP citing prior exposure on Twitter is a further conundrum. Was parliamentary privilege misused by the MP? Making the declaration in the sanctuary of parliament that is subsequently routinely broadcast destroys the element of confidentiality.
A key element of education is to prepare children for adulthood. The range of media now available to instantly broadcast opinions by anybody hooked up to the internet is now legion. Historically to publish a viewpoint involved having an article or letter published in a magazine or newspaper. Critically this route involved the backstop of a newspaper editor who would scrutinise the content. Now anybody can say anything, anywhere and therein lays the danger.
An inadvertent comment, maybe made in the heat of the moment or based on frugal evidence, can now become global in a matter of hours. The immaturity of a child or young adult could lead to unintended consequences – or perhaps fuel the malicious aspirations of an undesirable member of society. Yet there are huge benefits from this freedom of speech that await children. Being able reach a massive audience needs treating with care; it is difficult to delete content once published. New skills are required especially in the role of expression and brevity. The skill of literacy précis in blogs and micro blogs has reached a new level with the need to express an opinion on Twitter in 140 characters. Teaching children such skills will pay dividends in the world of communication. And if we can also train politicians in the art we could see a far more productive government!