Community Building, Social Media, and Children

Posted October 11th, 2011 by Robin in Child, Parenting, Tech

Early elementary social studies curriculum includes learning what a community is. Children learn about community helpers; the meaning of school community and neighborhoods; town, farms, cities, states, countries. They learn how to participate in groups. They learn about laws of society. They learn about themselves, family, and community. They learn how to learn about their community—news shows, newspapers, and so forth.

But what about social media and the Internet? Sure, some kindergartners may have heard about blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube,  and texting, but is social media being taught as one of the ways we communicate and learn about others? Is social media being taught as a way to build community?

Too often, bad news makes the headlines. Good news does too, but it’s the tragic events that we talk about, that spread like wildfire over the Internet and the various social medias.

When the earthquake happened a few weeks ago, phone lines were jammed instantly. My of my sisters, living in Connecticut, had actually texted my other sister in Northern Virginia about the earthquake before she was told to evacuate her work building. News traveled so fast over the internet that my sister hundreds of miles away knew we were having an earthquake before it was confirmed to the folks experiencing it!

When a friend and contributor to The DC Moms needed some support, Princess Warriors was quickly created. A whole community of support was formed online. And now, after flash floods have taken the life of a curious 12 year old whose mom is also a blogger, the blogging community has once again come together to offer support. Complete strangers have flooded this mom’s blog with condolences and prayers. Many other bloggers have written about this boy as well.

When something happy or devastating happens, I, as you, look to my friends to share the news or look for support. But I use social media as my primary source of communication now. I share my triumphs and sadness with my Facebook and Twitter communities. I look to YouTube for video clips related to my work (and entertainment). I have been able to build several communities online that serve a variety of purposes: mom bloggers who have become real life friends; colleagues whom I haven’t met in person but who offer professional support; Twitter to read CNN’s headlines news and get up-to-date weather reports.

I can’t remember not using social media, and I wonder, are we teaching this modern, and very important, community building and support system to our youngest? Are we teaching them that community can also be found online?

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