A kind and committed parent in our school started a school community Facebook page. It's such a great page when it comes to sharing the news that affects the families in our school. She manages the page with sensitivity and has made important information readily and sensitively available to all members of the community. This is positive.
Unfortunately the school system has not updated their Facebook policies, so teachers and students are unable to access Facebook at school. At this point, I think it's time to change that rule since so many worthy organizations and individuals have valuable information on Facebook, and that information can support teaching and learning well. For example at the start of the year our students will complete a "Selfie Project" that requires photos. It would be a lot easier if students could access family Facebook pages to pull specific photos for the project.
Of course, every time you open up a page or platform at school you run the risk that students and staff will misuse the privilege. I think it's better to open up good sites like Facebook and teach how to use and monitor the sites' use in ways that matter. It's better for students to be able to learn how to access/use many of these sites in a safe environment with a developmental approach than to let them navigate the complex Internet choices on their own. Of course, it's also important to follow the rules set for Internet use including the fact that students under 13 are not allowed to create their own Facebook or interact with a number of sites due to their age.
Digital literacy involves learning how to navigate the Internet with intelligence, responsibility, and care. The Internet offers so many valuable learning tools and sites that increase our learning/teaching potential tenfold. The Internet also offers easy access to dangerous and destructive sites too, and it's important to teach students how to avoid those sites, and what to do when one of those sites pops up accidentally. Just recently I typed in the name of a site I visit often incorrectly and up popped something very inappropriate, I was able to quickly leave the site, delete my history, and restart my computer as I didn't want that site popping up again. So far, I've had not trouble with it.
In many ways, the Internet mirrors the landscape of our neighborhoods, natural landscapes, and urban communities. For example, we wouldn't let students hike through the dense forest or unknown city street alone without support, training, and/or purpose. The same is true for the Internet. We need to gradually allow students more and more freedom with the Internet, and we have to match that developmental gradual release with good teaching and training so students are savvy tech users who make good decisions about what they do online.
It's also important for family members and teachers to work together on this teaching and gradual release of responsibility. It's important to discuss issues as they occur sooner than later so teachers and parents can respond appropriately to redirect, teach, and keep students safe.