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3 Disturbing Trends Made Prevalent by Technology

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The Information Era has dramatically changed the way we educate our children. We live in a world of rapid change and the resemblance to yesterday is fleeting. Above all, communication has changed, and an enormous variety of information is now accessible to almost everyone at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger.

From the accessibility of online learning to students who otherwise would struggle in traditional settings to assistive technology for students with autism, there are lots of great technologies that teachers need to keep track of to be effective.

However, it is not just important to know which technologies will assist in the education of students, but to watch out for certain disturbing trends that have arisen as a result of the availability of these new technologies. Here are just three of those trends:

1. Texting and awful grammar in K-12 schools.  Internet and cell phone cultures have brought a whole new meaning to American slang. Not only are kids these days speaking informally, but now those relaxed rules of grammar are sneaking into written words too.

The biggest problem with these digital avenues of composition, according to surveyed teachers, is the blurring of lines between formal and informal writing. Abbreviations are common, particularly on platforms like Twitter that have a 140-character limit. Most smartphones now have no limits on texting characters, but students that owned phones with the 160-character limits of just a few years ago have already formed short, abbreviated habits. In the digital realm, short and sweet is the key - even if grammar, punctuation and writing formalities fall by the wayside. The same is not true of educational writing pursuits though, as K-12 writing instructors must prepare students for the demands of strong, professional writing in college and the workplace.

A report released by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills found that over 26 percent of college graduates have deficient writing skills. These findings were not based on graduation assessment exams, but compiled by interviewing actual employers. These employers said that many college-educated employees could not even accomplish the basic writing tasks of the job proficiently. How are these students earning college degrees if their writing is not up to par though? With the average U.S. student accruing $35,200 in college debt, it would seem learning the basics of writing, at least above a "deficient" level, would be a given takeaway.

2. Sexting and sexual harassment. Today, sexual harassment between students is even more widespread because of the viral nature of the internet and sexting. A photo that a young man sends his latest crush can quickly become fodder for a school-wide joke when it appears on a social media account or is texted to a large group of other students. It is also much harder for students to get away from harassment because their school lives follow them more closely than ever outside classroom hours, due to technology. It is also difficult to know where a school's jurisdiction ends when it comes to harassment between students that takes place outside of school hours.

The problem of sexual harassment in schools is persistent.  Schools can act more responsibly on the issue by formulating proper and specific sexual harassment policies and providing special training programs for teachers, students and other administrative staff.  Seeking the support of parents is also beneficial. The challenges around implementing sexual harassment policies are made even more difficult because students shy away from reporting incidents, for fear of suffering additional consequences or being ridiculed.  The solution is to create a safe environment in the school so that such instances of harassments simply do not take place and the students feel secure, although this is often easier said than done.

3. Cyber bullying. According to an article published on VoicED.org.uk, a poll of 2000 11-16 year olds found that almost three in five (57%) have done something 'risky' or anti-social while online. In addition, almost two in three (62%) said that they felt under pressure from peers to act in this way on the internet.

The activities described included saying negative things about other people, viewing unsuitable websites and, perhaps most worryingly, sharing unsuitable videos or pictures of themselves. Moreover, a fifth of those surveyed admitted to having pressured someone else to act in a negative way online (this rose to 32% in London).

Of the 2000 respondents, almost half (47%) said that they had viewed something on the internet that they did not think their parents would want them to view, whilst around one in seven (14%) said they had sent images of either themselves, or of someone else, that they did not think their parents would want them to send.

A tenth had signed up to online sites or services which were not meant to be viewed by their age group.

In terms of cyber-bullying, almost three quarters (72%) of respondents aged 14-16 had witnessed some form of online bullying, or had been subjected to it. While this is a bleak statistic, there are positive signs. Three quarters had blocked another user of an app or on a website, two thirds (68%) had supported someone else who had suffered cyber-bullying and 74% had 'stood up for themselves.'

Classrooms are becoming more high-tech, and a lot of innovation has come from that. However, it is important to keep in mind how these new technologies influence disruptive behaviors. 

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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