Friday, October 24, 2014

"The Breakfast Club", Being Connected and Digital Identity

the library by MacQ, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  MacQ 

When we were in school, particularly as teens, we wrestled with our identity based on how we dressed, what we did for fun, or who we hung out with. In the movie, "The Breakfast Club", teen identity was tightly wrapped up in one's peers or social group. How has this changed today?  As teens, many of us were able to relate to at least one of the archetype characters in "The Breakfast Club". Even if the characters represented stereotypical teen cliques, the movie explored the idea that each of these individuals was more than the stereotype of the group they hung out with. How have the roles of teens today changed from the roles of this  well-loved teen classic?  On-line are there still "the jocks", "the brains", "the princesses" "the basket-cases", and "the criminals"...? Do those names still linger? Or have they morphed into something else?

As teens 20 years ago, trying to forge an identity with social pressures was challenging enough. It was time when one could perhaps be themselves, without the eyes of peers constantly "watching". Today with social media, do teens have more or less freedom to be themselves? Is the presence of the "ever-present" social media changing the way kids form their identity?  Or is there a greater challenge in trying to create that online identity and be true to their offline identity?

In "The Breakfast Club" we see the effects of stereotyping and bullying, which seem to be somewhat overcome by an afternoon of detention which opened the social boundaries that separated the teens. In today's terms how have the roles changed? In the on-line world, what are the new roles? Could they be the: "Citizens", "Trolls", "Victims", "Hackers", "Users", "Creators", "Tweeters",  and "Curators" ... (I'm sure there are more, these are just a few I could think of.) But how are these roles changing the formation of this identity? Are the Pintrest users the new "Princesses", "Google+" users the new "Brains" and the "Trolls" the "Criminals"? Have things changed that much in 25 years? Are students still categorized by their peer group and how they socially interact. Is it just the location for social interaction the part that has changed? 

A few years ago, I had to intervene with a couple cases of harassment via Facebook with a middle years student. The solution that was decided, was that the student being harassed should "take a break from social media", for their own emotional protection. It was a challenging situation to navigate, because as was pointed out in our discussion with @bonstewart Tuesday night, why does the victim always have to stop socializing via social media? Why not the bully? Seeing the student suffering from the hurtful comments and not really getting a break from it was heartbreaking. What was more challenging, was trying to get the cooperation from the parents of all the students involved to intervene and admit that something had to be done (and not just the parents of the victim). My situation was only a small fraction of the insidious harassment as evident in the Amanda Todd case (CBC Fifth Estate story, "The Sextortion of Amanda Todd"), but nonetheless, one can see how quickly social media can turn ugly, even at a middle years level. It makes you wonder, where is the on-line detention room when you need it?

I suppose this is part of the important role that teachers have in helping students learn how to interact in the online environment. It's not just about teaching students how to use the technology and navigate the digital world, but also recognize ethical and unethical situations when they see them. As parents and teachers we can somewhat control the physical environment that our kids interact within, but when it comes to the on-line environment, we almost need to be as vigilant as we would be walking with a child near a dangerous city street at night! We need to teach our kids how to be safe and protect their identity and how to avoid the "Trolls" looking for ways to steal the joy of socializing on-line.
Going back to "The Breakfast Club", how can we look for spaces (outside of detention) where kids can socialize in this world and really get to know each other? Or is this even necessary?? Should we keep these on-line spaces impersonal and controlled, particularly with younger on-line users??  Or should we look the Internet as a place that will provide a space where social boundaries can be crossed, sort of like in "The Breakfast Club"?

There are so many questions still left unanswered, that I will need to muse on further... 


  1. I love how you connected last class with the movie, The Breakfast Club - which, by the way, is one of my ALL-TIME favourite movies! You pose a lot of good questions and thoughts. Yes, we would like students to enjoy themselves while posting and commenting online, but they need to be careful so as to protect their identities and continue to make careful decisions.

    By the way, many teachers use Pinterest to gain ideas about their classroom management and lesson planning - I am one of those teachers! So, does this make me a Brain?? :-)

  2. Excellent post! I enjoyed reading your post and reflecting about the comparisons with social identity and cliques. I have never made that connection before and I thought it was very interesting. You asked some very important questions! I think now more than ever it is important for teachers to discuss with their students about their digital footprint and how they need to be careful of protecting their identities online!