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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Social networking for the younger set

Oh I should be writing so many other things right now. That is why this is so critical.

Today I promised my 7 year-old daughter I would open her a Facebook page. I did think ahead enough to say I would only do so under our dog's name as an alias. I messed up though because I entered in my daughter's birthday, and quickly learned that my daughter does not meet Facebook's minimum age of 13. I didn't even know that you had to be 13 to have a page. My hand was sort of forced into this thing because my daughter's best friend, who is 8, has recently opened her own FB page. This has been sort of annoying for me because, even though I've blocked her from seeing most of my information, she can still see when I'm online and she jumps in to chat--ugh. My daughter quickly began insisting that she was old enough, and as a compromise, I thought, maybe a dummy page.

She did not take the blow well. I sent her out of the house with a promise to find something age-appropriate. We'd tried last year, but there was nothing there. I searched around quickly and found Togetherville. It looks ok. We're trying it today. I've already had to tweek my own FB settings because it was posting what I was saying to my daughter on my page, which was embarrassing. It was also posting invitations to family and friends to my page. So it's a little like a Farmville app in that sense. You can go into your settings and adjust them to not allow the applications to post to your wall. There are games, art projects, quizzes, and some pre-chosen Youtube videos in the app. It says it's ad free, but the pre-chosen You-tube videos contain enough trailers for movies to pay for the site, I'm sure.

All this is weighing on my mind enough to postpone what I really should be writing on imagetexts because I think that parents do play a role in children's early online education. When my daughter got online for a while, we talked about the layout, about the safety issues, about the privacy, even about the way advertisement was built into the site. She saw a girl with the same name as a girl in her class and thought it was that girl, so we started the conversation about the power of connectivity of the web. I do not want to leave these conversations up to her teachers. I hope (and know) her teachers have these conversations with her, but I also know that parents cannot count on media and technology literacy being covered in the classroom. Engaging children on the web, even social networking sites like Webkinz, Club Penguin, and Togetherville, is engaging the very real literacies they will be interacting with throughout their lives.

Now to Blake, anime, and imagetexts. Wish me luck.