May the Grandma (Rule) R.I.P.

Why it’s time to change the tone and tenor of digital education

Yeah, you’ve heard it. And perhaps you’ve even uttered the words. “Don’t post anything to social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.”

This so-called “Grandma Rule” is emblematic of the prevailing social media guidance given to adolescents. It is knee jerk guidance that seeks to mitigate the negative impact of social media’s permanence and discoverability. The assumption is that adolescents will naturally post sophomoric (even moronic) stuff to the internet. Then, as a result, students will never get into a college or get a job because of the embarrassing public digital footprint they’ve created. As the logic goes, with the Grandma Rule firmly in place, adolescents will be thinking of their grandmothers before posting their most private moments online including provocative selfies or otherwise shaming, harassing and trolling others. Not surprisingly, the data shows the grandma rule has only served to push our youth onto new social media platforms far away from the digital interstates.

This guidance does not teach. This guidance does not elevate. This guidance is fundamentally flawed.

By publishing their activities far away from grandma’s view, the public digital footprints of most adolescents will be M.I.A. when it counts. This void of an easily discoverable digital presence will not help them get into college or find a job and it might actually hurt their chances when they can't be found.

We need to elevate the conversation by teaching students to embrace the importance of building an authentic and reflective digital presence. There are many leading educators who have already figured this out. With the full support of their school's administration, they are incorporating social media education into their curriculum while teaching their students to build a positive and robust digital footprint based on their academic experiences. For other schools and educators to follow this lead, they must first let go of their fears, their fixation on blocking social media and stop preaching from a negative point of view..

Building an engaged digital presence is becoming a prerequisite for college admissions and employment. Digital portfolios form the cornerstone of the new college application created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability & Success. Many employers are now recruiting employees based on the quality of their digital presence. Let’s encourage our students to blog. Let’s show them how to build digital portfolios of their work. Let’s encourage them to post about their community service, extracurricular activities, ideas and aspirations for the world to see. Let’s teach them how to use social media platforms to engage and network with others. Let’s get them prepared for the world they will be entering.

The Coalition of Digital Educators or C.O.D.E. is a newly formed 501(c) professional organization that advocates for the promotion of digital citizenship through education about the responsible, respectful, and safe use of technology. Parents and educators need to understand the concepts and tools required for building a smart digital presence. C.O.D.E. will take an active position on changing the prevailing perception of social media. The goal is to have educators view social media as an asset that needs to be integrated into the curriculum. The goal is to leverage education to obviate the need of having law enforcement in the mix. The goal is to elevate social media's place in schools by replacing fear with hope; ignorance with knowledge; and avoidance with engagement.


Alan KatzmanComment