Positive Uses of Social Networking One Year Later

A year ago YALSA launched the 30 days of positive uses of social networking project. Every day throughout October three YALSA bloggers posted ideas and information about using social networking in the school and public library. The postings were in response to the U.S. Congress Deleting Online Predators Act and the realization that librarians working with teens needed support and information on using social networking with teens.

Now, one year later, the same YALSA bloggers are each going to write an update post, during the month of October, about the world of social networking, teens, etc.

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While no longer in the news as much as it was last year at this time, the US Congress continues to have legislation before it that would impact availability of social networking resources in schools and libraries. The 2007 version of the bill is called Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. In August a new version of this bill was reintroduced in the Senate by Ted Stevens. The summary of the bill at OpenCongress states:

A bill to protect children from cybercrimes, including crimes by online predators, to enhance efforts to identify and eliminate child pornography, and to help parents shield their children from material that is inappropriate for minors

On September 27 the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation acted on the bill which was “ordered to be reported with amendments favorably.”

In other words the federal government is still looking at this topic and educators working with teens need to keep promoting the positive aspects of social networking. Librarians and teachers also need to promote important role teachers and librarians play in helping teens be safe and smart when using social networking technologies.

Not only is the federal government looking at ways to limit access to social networking in schools and libraries, but so too are state governments. In the past year some states around the country introduced bills in the legislature that focus on hindering, or severely limiting, access to social networking in schools and libraries. Check out ALA’s wiki page on state legislation to learn about some of these.

Don’t let legalities be the sole reason for your motivation in learning about and using social networking. Go for it because it is an important way for you to provide good customer service to the teens you serve.

In my teaching and training I continue to have librarians ask me whether or not social networking is safe for teens. They also want to know how to help others understand the positive aspects of social networking in teen lives. Here are some of the things I often tell them:

  • Keep (or start) using social networking tools yourself. Read through last year’s 30 positive uses and try out the sites and resources that you have never used or heard of.
  • Dont’ take someone else’s word for the good or bad of social networking in a teen’s life. If someone told you a book should be banned in the library would you agree without reading the book yourself? Take the same approach with social networking web sites, use them before you make any judgments or decisions.
  • Ask teens about the role social networking plays in their lives and ask them to teach you about the social networking tools they use.
  • Talk to parents, teachers, colleagues, administrators, and local/state/national government officials about the important role social networking plays in teen lives. Don’t be afraid to get the message out.
  • Help promote the fact that education about social networking tools is the best way to approach teen use of these tools. Help others understand that without educating teens about how to be safe and smart we don’t give them the chance to practice safety and smart behavior.
  • Keep up with current research on the topic of social networking in teen lives. For example, read the report published by the National School Boards Association on social networking in the lives of students. Make sure others in the community know about the report.

Even if there was never one single piece of local, state, or national legislation related to social networking and teens, it would still be important to educate and inform the community about why the library needs to be a positive force in connecting teens with these resources. By doing that education you get to demonstrate your importance to the community and to teens. You also get to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of technology as an educational tool.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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One Comment

  1. Sheila Kearns [Visitor]

    I have found the last round of positive uses of social networking very enlightening and I look forward to the one year later update.

    I think the promoting the positive uses of social networking is very import. However, the piece that I often feel is missing as we try to explain what can be lost by limiting access to social networking is an emphasis on dealing directly with “creep factor” that so many fear in social networking.

    I think that the Feel Good Librarian recently did a good job of articulating the need to address these fears directly, addressing the “frightened parents, deeply concerned for the well-being of their children, concerned enough to say ‘It ought to be illegal’ but not well-informed enough to know that isn’t necessary?” http://feelgoodlibrarian.typepad.com/feelgood_librarian/2007/09/hi-everyone-now.html

    Perhaps I have missed what I am looking for amid all of the examples of positive uses of social networking, but I am still on the hunt for the example that directly engages kids in being media-savvy, where the point of the social networking experience is demonstrating how it can be done in ways that allay some of those parental fears.

    I have seen very heartening accounts of how kids are already quite careful about what they do or do not disclose about themselves on line, but why not make this good sense the explicit focus of some of libraries’ social networking efforts. I know it unlikely that we will find a magic way to make being careful cool, but maybe some of the things we do could highlight the “cool” ways that kids have already figured out for minimizing the creep-factor in the social networking experience.

    I am playing around with the idea of some sort of exercise in creating a profile for MySpace or any other popular social networking site that shows the most ingenuity for keeping out the creeps while still making things as open as possible to “friends.” However, I am sure there are folks out there who can come up with better ideas than me.

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