I am beginning to sound like a broken record here, but I can’t help but feel that the predominate mood regarding digital citzenship is one of paranoia. It is all about avoiding those “creepy 50 year old guys posing as teenagers”. In the article, “What Are Kids Doing Online”, this statistic is presented:
I am assuming this is meant to to alarm the reader. As a person who has used not only my first and last name, but also my middle name, to identify myself for years–I don’t understand the reason for alarm. What exactly is the harm of being associated with what you post? Isn’t that what we are trying to teach–that your online presence is just as powerful as your real presence?
As we inspect RUA’s from various schools, we have encountered some schools that expressly forbid impersonating someone else online–a reasonable requirement. It seems to me that the reason for this is simple: We want students to be accountable for what they create. But if we simultaneously say, “Don’t use your real name”, how are we encouraging accountability? One of my favorite forums, permies.com, has a naming policy in which you must use a proper name. It doesn’t actually have to be your real name, but it must at least “seem like a real name”. The idea is fairly straightforward: Names encourage online community, because that is how we are used to community being built.
In her fantastic article about ‘drama’ (the 2015 term for ‘bullying’), Danah Boyd points out that online dramas are tightly correlated with real-life drama. I cannot imagine that the tendency to hide behind avatars/aliaes will help with holding teenagers accountable for what they post. Standing up in room full of people and saying something obscene doesn’t happen. However, if someone were able to anonymously shout something over loudspeakers to that same room, it would quickly turn into the classic “Troll fest” that so often occurs in the comments section.
Names = Accountability