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The Facebook Dilemma

by Deborah McCallum

Facebook requires individuals to be 13 years of age or older in order to use it. However, in our Elementary Schools there are more and more children logging in. In our schools and school communities, parents often look towards the Educators and Community Police that come  to our schools to be the experts on social media. Together, we are able to deliver a lot of great information about protecting our children online. However, the truth is that we still know relatively little about how the long-term effects of social media will ultimately impact our students growth and development intellectually, mentally and emotionally. These are all aspects that directly influence both personal and academic success within our school systems.

Within the education system, we are all continuing to build awareness with our students regarding personal safety, protecting against online predators, and cyber-bullying. These concerns are of the utmost importance, as we need to help protect our students from emotional and physical harm.

With such widespread usage of Facebook by our youth, it is often impossible for children ignore bullying, and process other messages being sent through Facebook. Children no longer have the ability to leave difficult or confusing situations just by leaving school at the end of the day, or by going and playing somewhere else with opportunity to start fresh the next day. If a child’s self-esteem is already impacted by real-time social situations that include bullying, then how much deeper are they impacted when this occurs online, never to go away, and for anyone to see?

Suggestions for Educators to implement in the classroom:

  • Engage in ongoing discussions in our classrooms and schools to keep the lines of communication open to build a safe environment for students to seek help when needed.
  • Model digital citizenship within the classroom and take it from the abstract to the concrete.
  • Embed Social Media into classroom teachings and demonstrate effective ways of using the tools.
  • Extend Character Education initiatives within the school to into Social Media
  • Actively Involve students in mapping out their learning online, and help them to make meaningful connections to personal experience
  • Provide opportunities for Reflection about what they are contributing and learning
  • Embed social media into the curriculum, and allow students the chance to use it in effective ways
  • Obtain your own Facebook account and learn about how to use this important piece of reality in our students lives in the 21st century.

Though Facebook requires students to be 13 years or older in order to use it, the reality is that there are many Primary Students who are logging in, and this has the potential to greatly impact self-esteem and learning at school.


Do you think that we should we be discussing Facebook with our Primary Students?


Deborah McCallum is an Educator and a Writer. She writes both Fiction, & Non-Fiction including Curriculum, Psychology of Learning, and of how we can incorporate First Nations, Metis, & Inuit perspectives in education. With Graduate Studies in Counselling Psychology, and over 12 years of Teaching and Librarianship experience, Deborah has developed in-depth expertise and knowledge into important issues surrounding Education in the 21st Century. Visit Deborah’s blog http://bigideasinedu.edublogs.org/

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  • http://bigideasineducation.wordpress.com Deborah McCallum

    Thanks very much for your comments! The more I think about it, the more I believe that we need to be more explicit with our teaching of the use of Social Media. Critical thinking skills and Digital Citizenship need to be able to be applied in many different situations in a child’s life, why not teach them how to apply these cognitive skills to Social Media? Help students transfer these skills from literacy curricula, Information Studies curricula, and literacy curricula for example.

    I think we are in an interesting spot, with Social Media still in its first real decade of use, that many adults do not understand the implications of creating a Digital Footprint for their own children. Many digital photos also are traceable to the exact place in which they were taken. If Facebook friends, friends of friends, and so on are able to copy these photos and share them freely, we need to be cognizant of the fact that safety could be compromised.

    Thanks for sharing those great points!

  • http://adunsiger.com Aviva (@avivaloca)

    Deborah, great post! Just the other week, I was sitting in an assembly with Grade 1-8 students, and the speaker asked how many students use Facebook. At least 80% of the hands went up, even though less than 10% meet the Terms of Service age restrictions. This bothers me. I can argue that if primary students aren’t old enough to be using Facebook, we shouldn’t be discussing it with them, but the reality is that most students younger than 13 are using Facebook. I think it’s better to teach students how to use it responsibly than to not mention it at all. When I taught Grades 1 and 2, we had a class Twitter account. Students learned about what to tweet and what not to tweet. They explored the importance of privacy. They monitored their own tweets and the tweets of their peers. They learned about spam and how to deal with it. These 6 and 7 year olds became responsible digital citizens, and this is a good thing. If it can be done with Twitter, it can be done with Facebook too.


    • Janet Lee

      Aviva, I think it is a great idea to think about how to deconstruct facebook with primary students.

      I witnessed one teacher use his bulletin board space as a series of facebook walls. He chose characters that students knew well and decided as a class what profile pic to choose. They discussed how the characters would choose the right pic to represent themselves. (Oscar the grouch would probably like a pic of himself surrounded by garbage with a frown)

      NOTE: The possibilities are endless. Take it step further for Junior students by having them assume these characters. Discuss how each one might communicate with the other. What pages would each one like?

      What I love about this idea is that students are having fun with it and the language expectations are being addressed.


      Shout out to Tim Hatch for this awesome idea!

  • http://neilfinney.blogspot.com Neil Finney

    Hi Deborah. Great post with a bunch of NOW ideas for educators. I especially think the idea of having your own Facebook account is so critical, so that you understand what it is, how it’s used and most importantly, how to integrate its themes into teaching (about it).

    I came across this article on a “kid-friendly” Facebook recently (http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/technology/120604/kid-friendly-facebook-testing) Is this going in a good direction for our kids? How can we tap into this (in the classroom) should it come to be? Does anyone out there teach Facebook explicity?

  • http://www.learningwithdonna.com Donna

    It would be very interesting to ask our primary students what they know about Facebook. I’ll bet a majority of our students have most of their lives documented on Facebook by their parents! I know I look forward to my nieces’ photos of their children, but I do check my own privacy settings so that photos shared with me are not shared with friends of my friends–but, to be honest, I am not always sure about that.

    So, I think Facebook is a reality for most primary students, but many primary teachers would be reticent in addressing it in the primary grades. Perhaps, having a public wall in the classroom for kids to post free writing, news, jokes and to allow commentary on their classmates’ work, would provide a good communication opportunity, and would necessitate a discussion on public sharing, and all that that entails. Because, I know that we have dealt with bullying on Facebook as early as grade 4 in our school, so the need is there for children to be aware that there is a responsibility for posting something publicly, either in the classroom community, or on the wider online forum.

    • http://neilfinney.blogspot.com Neil Finney

      Parents who post their kid pics and information online absolutely need to be careful with privacy settings – and thinking about what they are creating. By the time these children reach school, there will be an entire online identity that already exists for them (without them knowing or giving their own consent). It will be interesting to say how that plays out when they’re pre-teens and teenagers and their parents still have photo albums with bathtub time and spoon-feeding photos for the world to see.

      We are already hearing about potential employers who first check the applicant’s online presence (including Facebook and Twitter) to get an idea about the person. We have to make sure that our students realize the gravity of this situation when they are deciding what to tweet or post and how it will have an online shelf life that could mean it one day pops up on the screen of the person who is choosing whether to hire you.

      Maybe it should be primary where the digital citizenship and online issues are tackled and seeded in their brains – so digital awareness is another acquired language as they progress through our elementary schools. But, how do we get the parents and family members on board with teaching these things when they may have little online knowledge or awareness themselves?