Mitrano, Tracy. "Facebook 2.0." Educause Review March/April 2008: 72-73.
Read online here. See also Mitrano's piece from Cornell here.
I have been using Facebook for a bit of time now (here are some of my previous musings on the topic). I have to admit I have some mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it is not a bad way to stay in touch with some people, especially people on my campus. On the other hand, the walled garden approach is pretty limiting. The restrictiveness of Facebook as a walled garden is one of the things I have realized as I went ahead and opened a MySpace profile as part of my continuous learning experiments. Readers can find a link to my MySpace on the right hand column of the blog. If you are like me, you may be worried that the page is overloaded with who knows what graphics. Not to worry. I have kept the basic design; I just filled in some information. One thing that I did do was to add some widgets to enhance the profile but doing so in what I hope is a minimal way. Just three items were added: the GoodReads widget, so people know what I am reading; the Jango widget, for music (and no, it does not start blaring when you open the page. That is part of why I used it), and a widget that presents my blogs' feeds. At any rate, the point of this momentary digression is to point out the contrast. Let's get back to the article.
Tracy Mitrano gives us her thoughts on challenges regarding Facebook. The article is a short one, and I think librarians as well as higher ed. administrators may want to look it over. All the points she makes are important, but for me, what made me think was the idea of user education. According to Ms. Mitrano, we need user education when it comes to Facebook for both teens and their parents. And I think libraries should be at the forefront of providing that education. This is so given our unique position in our communities as places of access and information. Many people come to learn about computers and the online world at their libraries. And even those who are pretty savvy can still use a lesson or two now and then. We are experts in this domain, and we should sharing that expertise. Maybe in some way that is why I have gone ahead and made profiles in social networking sites. If I am going to teach others about how to be safe and have a good time, I probably should have at least a passing acquaintance with the tools. We need to get in. It does not mean we have to be intrusive, but having a presence can be beneficial to our learning as well as interacting with users. I have not quite shaped this thought through just yet.
Anyhow, here are some highlights from the article, or things that caught my attention:
- "For teen-agers, the emergence of 'helicopter' parents has no doubt driven adolescents deeper into technological zones that are generally out of their parents' hovering view" (72). As a parent, I have wondered about this. So far, we do supervise closely when our daughter is online, but she does go now and then to friends' houses, and I am not sure their parents may or not be as vigilant. The point is she will be out of our eye at one point or another. That's where the parenting, talking to your kids, and having a good relationship with the kids pays off. There is an element of trust.
- "Unless an individual is particularly at risk, invading a teen-ager's space is not the solution" (72). This is hard, but it should be obvious. Invade their space without cause, and you drive them deeper underground, so to speak. Notice I said without cause. If there is a significant concern or risk, as a parent you have to do whatever it takes to protect your kid, even if it means invading their space. They may hate you for it initially, but they will be safe. That is what a parent should be doing. But only if absolutely necessary. If you did you job, you should not need to go raid your kid's space (see my point in the previous paragraph on trust).
- The solution? "But learning more about those spaces--how they operate, who is on them, and most important, how to talk about their social dynamics-- is recommended. Parents can only do that effectively if they educate themselves about both the technology and the sociology of the Internet" (72). There is no substitute for learning, and I mean learning. Yet another hysterical report on CNN about some cyberbully is not the way to learn about these spaces. There is no excuse for a parent to say that a kid knows more about computers than they do, and therefore they can't do anything about it. Nope. Not acceptable. You are a parent. Educate yourself. You should know where your kid is hanging out and with who; this is more important in the online world where anyone can portray themselves in any way or form. If need be, get yourself a MySpace or other social profile. Not so much to go looking for your kid. Use it so you can learn how it works and the dynamics of the space.