Do they have a filter?

It’s the start of a new semester, which means new little darlings streaming into my room, eager and full of joy. One walked in for the first day saying “Yo, Ms. Broadbent, we doin’ something fun today?”

“No. Don’t be ridiculous. Sit down.”

I smile at him and we have a moment of that wonderful teenage thing where a kid is funny, and the teacher appreciates that humor, and we’ll be fine.

Another walks in saying “This is gonna be stupid.”

“Go back into the hall and walk in again. This time with a better attitude.”

She did. But we be hate’n.

We ask so much of these kids, every day. Be happy about math, be happy about english, be happy that I ask you to put away your cell phone, and don’t eat that sandwich in here, and take off your hat, and watch your language, and what do you mean you don’t have a pencil, and I know what that word means, young man, and yes, you have to read that now, and what is that smell, and stop talking about that, I can hear you and I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW what you did on the weekend…

No wonder they get tired of us. Teachers. It’s February, after all. Name something you aren’t tired of.

Kids are way more comfortable with their teachers than they ever were when I was a kid. Perhaps it’s because of the immediacy of their on-line lives. They don’t hesitate to post every hiccup and snot-drip of their lives, in full color, on facebook, or twitter, or bbm, so they also don’t hesitate to share the intricacies of their convoluted love lives in class, usually at a volume that demands attention. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t telling me about the weekend’s activities, they are telling each other, within my hearing range. A range which isn’t great thanks to my advancing age and proclivity for listening to Pink Floyd cranked all the way up when I was a teenager. But I can hear them.

And not only do they yell about their lives… they have pictures.

And video.

And they seem to post it all.

Is it the fault of technology that our young ones are losing that inner filter that ensures privacy and protects their elders from TMI? Do they even know what privacy means?

There have been stories in the news recently of people losing their jobs because of ill-advised postings on line. It’s well known that employers are researching potentials hires via facebook and other social networking sites. In my own investigations into the publishing world I have learnt that submitting a manuscript to a publisher isn’t the only thing they look at when considering an author as a potential contract. They want to see evidence of the writer’s existence on-line. Blogs, tweets, facebook… it isn’t enough to write a good book, an author must also have a digital persona they are marketing to the world.

This is one of the photos on my facebook page:


I fear I shall continue to write my drivel in obscurity for eternity.

I warn my students about their overactive on-line enthusiasm, but they scoff at me.

“I have privacy settings.”

Oh, really. Then how do you explain this:

I can read your mind!

What really concerns me is the ability of young people to recognize the value of privacy. To be able to differentiate between something that seems funny on-line that they share with their close friends, and the potential of that very image or story to harm them in the future, taken out of context and viewed by people they haven’t even imagined meeting yet.

Like a future employer.

“So, you’ve applied to work with six year olds at our top-of-the-line education center?”

“Yes. I love kids. And kittens. And I crochet.”

“I see. Then you can perhaps explain this picture we pulled from facebook showing you running wildly down a street waving stolen real estate signs with a roll of toilet paper wrapped around your body? And what about this tweet which reads: ‘stickin’ it to the man, like a boss!’ and links to a video of you peeing on the front steps of what appears to be your local McDonalds?”

“Oh, that. Yeah. Heh heh. Not me. That’s my… um… evil twin…”

I have clever students. I have very employable, witty, entertaining students. I just hope they learn to filter their digital lives.

I’m really glad I grew up before social media became the mode of expression for youth. I may never have gotten a job if someone had been able to see the video of the adventure with the  real estate signs…

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2 thoughts on “Do they have a filter?

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  1. My husband and I have been talking a lot about this recently. We were interested in the ideas of “truth” and especially within the realm of plausible deniability. Growing up, I would like to believe that a “truth” about myself was that I was almost always respectful (within the realm of teenage reason), and rarely said mean things about my teachers and even my peers. The crazy thing is that, for the most part, I can say that and almost no one can refute it (aside from my mother). These kids are missing out on that. They are missing out on the idea of plausible deniability because someday, many years from now, when they make a claim about the “truth” of their teenage self, anyone (let me repeat, ANYONE) can quickly prove them absolutely wrong because of the minutiae, the passing statements that don’t actually make up their character, that are posted forever online as a permanent descriptor of their very being. The character perception, out of the context of their real life, will live on forever… and I hope they can learn to be thoughtful of that and guard that… or someday they may really regret it. As teachers, I think we take it so personally because, like a parent, we want to prevent that foreseeable pain from these kids for whom we care so deeply. Great writing and thoughts! I feel lucky that it showed up on my front page and I clicked in!

    1. I agree… and its not just the comments. The post pictures too, that exist forever in cyberspace. I have lovely kids in my classes, really, absolute sweethearts, and I know they are going to be fine people… but I think they have a denser jungle to traverse than we did when we were kids. We struggled with right and wrong, in our very small circles of friends and family. They have to make those judgement calls with the world in the palm of their hands. But, to be fair, at the same time that I worry about their futures and the negative influence of technology, I also hear the echoes of parents in the past. Rock and Roll was evil. Dancing like Elvis was going to ruin our young people. I picture an image of the old fella shaking his head saying “Tut, tut. Young people today”… I think I have become that old fella! Where’s my pipe? Where’s my meatloaf? Thanks for your comments, I love it when readers drop by! 🙂

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