The Columbia Daily Tribune published an editorial today about cyber bullying. There are lots of questions, but not a lot of answers:
Whom can we blame for implications of the new cyber world? The technology? The senders of messages? The recipients of messages? Clearly, most control rests with recipients. Their most effective weapon is the "off" button, but who are we as the rest of society to tell anyone he or she must use it?
Over at the Technology Liberation Front, Adam Thierer suggests that a state-mandated media literacy curriculum is the best solution. He writes:
For the most part, media literacy is not routinely integrated into the curricula at elementary school, secondary school, high school, or college. This situation must be reversed. Luckily, my home state of Virginia is helping to pave the way.
And a comment to his post even recommends including "information literacy" on state assessment exams.
I’m more inclined to side with the Tribune than with Thierer. First of all, my experience is that kids start using computers in the very early grades, and courses on word processing and online research are plentiful. If anything, schools go overboard with lessons on how to use the Internet or how to send email skills most kids already have or could figure out in a minute.
Second, even if I’m wrong about that and kids are missing out on instruction, state standards and tests aren’t going to help. We already have state standards and MAP exams for subjects like reading and math, and they haven’t spread traditional text-based literacy. I doubt media literacy will fare better.
And finally, I don’t see any indication that media literacy would have prevented Megan Meier’s tragic death. It wouldn’t have improved Megan’s emotional health or made her less vulnerable to rejection. Unfortunately, the state can’t mandate resiliency the way it can require schools to teach computer skills or safety tips.