How would you feel if you saw that text message on your teen’s phone? Would you be cool with it? Disturbed? Concerned? Perhaps not as horrified as parents of teens in Pennsylvania who got blatant sexual messages and naked photos from a substitute teacher. This is only one of many incidents in the last twelve months involving inappropriate communication between teachers and students.
For the record, I am far from a luddite. I am not (obviously), anti-technology. However, technology is not exactly to blame for sexual abuse and/or misconduct, now is it? Some former students at Shamokin Area High School in Pennsylvania, where the substitute teacher was employed were suprised, “It’s nuts because it never happened when we were in school. I think it’s crazy.”
Um, (raising hand), did you have cell phones when you were in school? Was texting as prevalent then as it is now? The unfortunate truth is that this particular brand of abuse is not new but just manifesting itself in ways that reflect our modern experience. Predators go where the prey is and if they’re smart, they will communicate with them in the way that their potential victims are most comfortable. Yes, teens text.
“Texting is far more effective as a means to engage students than email, which young people have found outdated for at least five years,” Lisa Nielsen said in this HuffPost article. Nielsen is the author of Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning. I agree… texting is an innovative way to get a teen’s attention, gain their trust, and create a sense of comfort and even intimacy… which is exactly the problem at hand.
I’ve read the counterpoints to these arguments but as a parent, if I have to weigh the physical and emotional well-being of my child versus the incremental gain of having a homework assignment delivered via text? I pick… the mimeograph, thanks.
Let’s leave technology out of it and pretend we’re in the Dark Ages, a.k.a., when I was in high school, a.k.a., the Eighties. Let’s agree that one-on-one instruction in which each student can respond to thought-provoking questions outside of the classroom enhances the learning experience for each student. As parents, would you then be willing to have your daughters/sons meet with their teachers alone, behind closed doors so that they can get really dive into the curriculum?
Let’s look at it from the other perspective… the teacher’s. I was a teacher once. Why would I want to text my students?! That means, they would have my cell phone number. Heavens! It was challenging enough that they had my email address… and this was for legitimate questions about homework assignments. It’s just opening a Pandora’s Box of not just the extreme cases that are now making the news but more minor incidents of just. plain. awkwardness.
The debate will rage on, I imagine, balancing freedom of speech and protecting personal information. I can’t think of a simple solution. Can you?
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