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Are Third Graders Ready for Facebook?

This teacher is distressed that Facebook friends are replacing real friends so early.

We’re off to a great start in my third grade class at De Laveaga Elementary School. The month of September my school and many across Santa Cruz County focused on the Life Skill FRIENDSHIP. That got me thinking.

One of the joys of being an elementary school teacher for the past 22 years has been watching friendships blossom from tablemates to lifelong soul mates. Year in and year out alumni from my classes come back and tell me about their friends with whom they’re still in touch…how their lives have progressed and how they’re closer now than they have ever been.  I’d like to think that by focusing my curriculum on community building that I had a part in that forever friendship.

About 10 years ago things started to change…quickly!

Technology has skewed the whole meaning of the word FRIEND. I’m mostly referring to a certain, unnamed website where you can “friend” people and “like things.

Day one in third grade this year we played “First Day Bingo.” The children mingled about the classroom and got to know each other by asking questions and putting each other’s names in boxes until they had blacked out their bingo card. While this was going on I stood on the sidelines watching and listening to the non-bingo conversation to get to know my students.

I must say, this year I was shocked when most of the chatter from my 8-year-old students was about Facebook and how many “friends” they had. Isn’t there an age limit on this site? Are parents aware that their children are spending countless hours in front of a computer screen “friending” people they do not know? Or “liking” things they’ve never seen, smelled, touched, heard?

If I remember correctly, I think I broke out in a cold sweat thinking this year’s going to be a doozey. I’m going to have to try my hardest to keep the kids off of the computer and on to building meaningful and real friendships.

Children today are very different from children 20 years ago. They’re raised in a completely different environment, full of technology, gadgets, screens, remote controls, and “friends.” Recess is often spent in the library, online or checking email. Whatever happened to four square or handball? How about jump rope? Or just enjoying snack and recess together with a pal?

As educators and parents we need to be aware of the invasion of these “friends” in our students’ and children’s lives.  Our children need to be taught social skills. Computers and televisions cannot replace parents, teachers and peers.

This year it will be my personal mission to teach my students what a REAL friend is.

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