Too young for social networking


Christophe Haubursin

Hooking young students up with a social network for homework assignments wires up their brains with decreased intuition and unnecessary stimulation. Programs like the elementary school Edmodo network are setting up kids for something they’re not ready for. Illustration by Christophe Haubursin.
Before there was Google+, before there was Facebook, even before there was MySpace, there was another social network for all of us to check into early each morning: the playground. It was a community of voices with the best of what the Internet gives us now — it had the circles, the games, the chats, the whiners, stalkers and promoters.

But with the recent establishment of the Edmodo social learning network, primary education is going online.

The premise is simple: introduce a basic, web-based communication center for elementary school students and teachers à la MVHS School Loop, add the Facebook-esque profiles and post-based socialization schemes, and the formula comes together. Homework assignments are posted every night, some to be completed through Edmodo’s interface itself, including a few where “journal entries” are assigned to be written up, posted onto a student’s profile and commented on by peers.

And just like that, the traditional elementary environment has been hurtled into the jungles of cyberspace before its denizens can even spell Zuckerberg.

What happened to the days of writing down homework from the board? With the small things came big lessons: lessons of responsibility, independence, organization — cutting out that developmental stage cuts out a large part of the necessity of classroom attentiveness.
Maturity, at its finest, is the sacrifice.

With studies popping up left and right on the burgeoning influence of technology on the lives of our developing generations, each new distraction a straw to the back of the overworked camel of their maturing minds — there’s just no sense in going just one technologically pervasive step further into the lives of our student bodies-to-be. A 2011 study from Cornell University showed that while getting started with technology and social media young boosts learning, social interaction falls victim. Starting out young with social media gathers negative effects that keep building, like a ball of digital mud sent cascading down a hill, one level of involvement followed quickly by the next. The influence is real, and we can’t take the risk.

At its core, what’s being done is a matter of immersion in a side of innovation that these students aren’t quite ready for yet. Just as car keys are kept far from the hands of a seven-year-old, things like this just need to be waited for, maturity before its privileges.

We need to help this growing generation realize childhood isn’t something to log on to, for their own sake. We need to stay true to our instinct to know when is right to introduce milestones into our students’ lives, and when it’s not.

Because that instinct is the greatest ally we have.