Question: when teaching your child (or a child) to cross the road would you:
a) give them all the theory of roads and expect them to remember it and use that information?
b) take them to a roadside, hold their hand and go across the road with them so they feel safe?
If you answered b you would be the normal person, who in their right mind would expect a child to understand the subtle dangers all around them when crossing a road ... but ... when it comes to safety on the internet we don't let them cross the road. However, once they get home they are on facebook, youtube, twitter, linked player games - and the list goes on. This shocked me when talking to a group of students - when they get a friend request on facebook they often automatically accept it without knowing the person - they just assume that if they have the request then the person must know them. When I challenged a group on this they just looked at me in such a way that told me they had never considered the possibility that the person wasn't who they said they were. So, still want your young people to learn to cross a road without seeing a car?
Suggestion - they are going to use all these sites - in exactly the same way they will cross lots of different types of roads - so, why not educate them to use them properly? Take off the firewall restrictions, let them blog, let them set up websites. But - and here's the big but, it must be done gradually and under supervision. Personally I get all my students to set up their own free web sites, but they must give me their passwords (which I do check each week) and they must stay safe. We discuss how not to give out personal information, how not to breach copyright of images, how to respectfully engage with others around the world and generally how to get the best out of the social media out there. They learn language, basic manners, e-literature and the list goes on. In order to gather information they have to research, check facts (Wiki sites are banned!) and reference where they get their information from. So actually they have to do some standard academic studying, all they are doing is recording it on line rather than on paper. The hard part is convincing some teachers and educators that it's worth doing, and worth doing well.
So, in exactly the same way that you would build a child up to cross the road safely by actually doing it - would you not rather a child learn to use the net and associated platforms of social media in a safer way? Just a thought.