Should Students Need a Driver’s Permit to Cruise Social Media?

Let’s imagine.  Your daughter is finally sixteen and you bought her a car for her birthday. As you watch her close the door and fasten her seatbelt, you say those two little words… “Go on.”  Now, you and I both know that you didn’t give her any lessons or hire her an instructor.  In fact, you forgot to have her take the driving test.


Is this responsible of you as a parent?


Of course it’s not. It’s ludicrous.  But the funny thing is that this is what we are doing with our children and our students.  We are giving them the most amazing vehicle—technology, but we are forgetting the importance of safety education and teaching them how to both “drive” these devices and navigate this information highway.


Let’s face it—cruising the web, especially social media, is sometimes as dangerous as driving a car, but prohibiting the use of social media doesn’t stop it; it only makes it more dangerous because it becomes secret.  As educators, we must begin to instruct our students in proper driving technique and etiquette.


Speaking of etiquette, those of us in education need to review safe practices as well.  Taking the car analogy a step further, most teachers would never find themselves alone in the car with one of their students; in today’s lawsuit-happy world, we should avoid any situation where our word is up against that of a child in our care.  And just as we would not get into a car alone with a one of our students, we must not enter into a social relationship online—no private chats, private Facebook messages, or personal non-school related emails.


There are ways to interact, yet we must use them carefully and publically.    We must be wary and we must be wise.  But we also—MUST.


Today, with budget cuts, the internet is one of our greatest resources, especially with textbooks, podcasts, and youtube videos all for free.  There’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and so many networking sites that are just waiting to find a place in education.  The world is at our fingertips, in our smart phones, tablets, and laptops, and most of us are finding that simple words on blank pages no longer cut it.  We are trying to drive our beat-up VW Bus in a stock car race.  We aren’t going to win.


The good news is that the racetrack hasn’t changed; education is still about engagement, pure and simple.  Students who are interested learn; students who are bored don’t.  There is a place for social media in our classrooms, just as there is a place for iPads and smart phones.


The key for us as educators is to balance innovation with safety.


We shouldn’t have to ask who’s driving the VW bus?  None of us should be—we need to meet our digital-native students where they learn best.  But we also should not have to wonder if the person driving the stock car has a license either—let’s teach our students to drive safely.


Photo credit:

Photo design credit: Jason S. and Cherie R.

Nikki Morrell

Nikki Morrell

Educator at Lake Mary Preparatory School

Nikki Morrell is a freelance writer, poet, and black belt. She holds a B.A. in English from King College and a Masters of Humanities from Tiffin University. Morrell teaches at both a small private college preparatory school in Orlando, FL, and at Tiffin University. Over the past twelve years, she has taught English literature and writing, dance, cheer, and drama. Her childhood was spent in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Tennessee reading everything she could get her hands on and telling ghost stories around a campfire. These days, most of the telling takes place in the virtual world.