Monday, March 2, 2015

Minnesota Trends in Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Digital Citizenship

For the past eight years I have had the privilege to speak about digital citizenship and cyber safety to tens of thousands of secondary students and parents in over 70 public and private school districts across Minnesota. I have shared the important message of using technology in healthy and appropriate ways by addressing current issues such as the latest apps, cyber bullying, inappropriate material, and digital footprints.  I am able to take vacation time off from my job in Minnetonka to do this. More info about my presentations is online
One of the things I do during my student presentations is to use PollEverywhere to engage the student audience by answering questions through text messaging. Their answers to multiple choice or yes/no questions are displayed instantly on the screen for all to see, and then we discuss the results. Most often, about a half to three fourths of the students in the audience choose to participate (not everyone has a cellphone/texting, I suppose some feel it's not anonymous, while others may be "too cool" to do this).  Recently I decided to export the polls into a report to see the cumulative results from the students' answers so far this year. Some of the questions I've recently changed, so not all of these polls have the same number of students responding.  The graphs below show the answers of 1,247-4,956 students grades 6-12 polled statewide.

One interesting trend over the years has been to see the rise and fall of Facebook in popularity. When I started giving these presentations years ago, I was talking about a site called MySpace with students (remember that?).  I saw the rise of Facebook a few years later.  Recently, now that Mom, Grandma, and teachers have signed up for Facebook, the students are quickly leaving for other tools like Instagram and Vine.  

Other trends I notice are that older high school students are not the quickest adopters; I see more grade 8-10 students begin using the latest tools and applications faster than their older classmates.  I also have noticed a delay in the adoption of the newer trending tools that seems to increase the farther away from the Twin Cities metro area the school is located.  Below are answers to the question, "Which three of these tools do you use the most?"

Another trend I'm seeing is an increase in the occurrence of cyber bullying statewide each year.  On the past round of the Minnesota State Student Survey last taken by students in 2013, 79-92% of students reported having never been cyber bullied in the past 30 days:

When I started asking that exact same question this year, only 59% of students now report never having been cyber bullied: 

I think with the growing number of students with cellphones and smartphones at even younger ages than ever before, cyber bullying is on the rise and should be a topic that is continually addressed by both schools and families, even though it seems like the media coverage has moved past this topic. We need to help students realize how quickly things can be posted, forwarded, and kept through technology, and how difficult it is to remove/take something back:  

We need to help them to think first before they post, and only post and digitize things they would be comfortable with everyone seeing, including Grandma:

We can help them understand these thing through continual dialog and reminders. We need to help them be safe as they use technology and do the right thing.  We can help them to create a positive online presence and digital footprint so they have the best future possible!  

Here's a link to the handout of the top tips I give parents and staff at my presentations which you are welcome to use and share. 

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