Saturday, 29 December 2012

Teaching us a lesson



  © Copyright David Wright and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence


Taunton School in Somerset has decided to include anti-defamation lessons to it’s PSHE curriculum, in an effort to dissuade children from falling into the libel traps that seem to be an occupational hazard of Social media these days. Ironically as this is an independent school it will come in for a savaging of it's own based on only that fact, such is the febrile nature of social media at times.

I think that teaching caution is an excellent idea but wonder if more adults could benefit from this too.

I’m described charitably as an avid Tweeter and have been on the receiving end of Twitter savagings in the past. However the groups in possession of a loaded keyboard, weren’t children in need of an education. These were adults and the many and various ways in which they chose to “spread the word” about me ranged from suggestions as to my being  "dangerously" mentally ill,  to uninformed opinions as to my ability as a parent. 

Not forgetting some choice views on my looks and perceived intelligence.

I’ve also witnessed some pretty inflammatory savagings of public figures dragged writhing  and protesting into a twitchfork hounding, faster than you can say pause and reflect.

How are our children meant to learn appropriate behaviours online when their doting parents seem incapable of restraint, themselves? The answer it would seem is via school.

There are many great blogs out there suggesting caution whilst online and I have to agree with all of them.  My own feeling is that one crucial rule is necessary. Before you propagate any juicy titbit which may wreck a reputation, imagine how you would feel if it was you. It's a simplistic take but worth at least considering.

A quick scan of social media networks , demonstrate that telling the world about your fabulous life and denigrating others can be the toxic waste product of the information superhighway, which comes as a staple of life now. But is it any wonder that our young are less than mindful of the preferred method of expression when they Facebook friend or twitter follow Mum only to see her pedding celebrity gossip or joining in with attacking someone for not being “on message” zeitgeist wise or joining the mob attacking Twitter’s latest “villain”.

You can find and promote any link, clip, photo or embarrassing news story online and it’s exponential speed of mass contagion via social networks makes the noro-virus look pathetically slow by comparison.  A non story transmutes to a news story in less than an hour at times, such is the breath taking speed and ravenous hunger that is rolling news.

So yes on balance I think teaching anti-defamation in schools is an excellent idea and now that modern parenting does seem to comprise increasingly of learning from, rather than instruction of, our children, perhaps more of us might benefit from this valuable lesson.

Effectively it's teaching us the crucial and mutually beneficial skill of constructive compassion.

2 comments:

  1. It's something people have to know about nowadays, because any social media is public written material and it is covered by libel law, which is more accessible now than it used to be because of no-win, no-fee lawyers. Slander was always an offence but very difficult to prove; libel is quite easy to trace. So, teaching it in secondary school is a good idea. It doesn't have to be an entire course - one or two lessons will do.

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  2. One of our local schools - a 'Media College', no less, has just banned mobiles because pupils used them to bully/defame/intimidate or simply waste time on them.

    Far more use, I'd have thought, to teach responsible use of technology and social media. Like it or not, social media and instant communication are now part of everyday life and we all need to adapt our behaviour to accommodate it.

    I think I delete as many draft tweets as I actually post, having thought better of them or realised that 140 characters might leave me open to misinterpretation. And, if challenged, I'm always prepared to say - "Yep. You could be right. Sorry" Anyone can say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment. It's being prepared to admit you might have been wrong that's important (especially for celebs, who seem particularly disinclined to admit a mistake).

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