Online safety

Who’s responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

Everyone’s – it has to be collaborative. The whole idea behind Web 2.0 is to connect people who share similar interests, hobbies and skills. When I look at our school’s community, I see parents, teachers, staff, peers … we all need to be aware and involved right from the start. One of the video presentations mentions that “the web mirrors all of human life” … so it makes sense that educating needs to be addressed by everyone. I guess the confusing part of all of this is – who gets involved and when/where? Do schools have the right to jump in when situations which involve students happen off campus, and don’t involve school property? Some AUPs address this, and some avoid it.

When dad banned text messaging talks about behaviors associated with text messaging, and “the idea of feeling important and connected.” We rely on technology now to stay in constant contact with family & friends (i.e. Facebook, Twitter). And living in Tokyo, I am constantly exposed to people who feel whatever message they are sending from their mobile phones is SO important that crossing a busy street, walking up stairs, getting on and off trains, and even riding a bike down a crowded sidewalk … can be done as they text away. It amazes, and often frustrates me. I wonder what younger children think of this behavior. Do they view it is appropriate usage? What are we modeling?

Then there is the issue of privacy and respect for others online. In cyberspace, we don’t have to confront others face to face, and it makes it so much easier to say things anonymously. Both case studies for this week’s f2f session looked at how easy it is to be a target, and how confusing situations can be as we hide behind technology, rather than confront the people involved. There is so much you can get away with digitally … and I guess the alarming thing for me, teaching Grade 5, is that the kids are so naive. They just are not aware that when they post their name, picture, or email address online (in a chatroom or SNS), the magnitude of their actions. Not only is their audience endless, but once you post something, you will not get it back. Remember your manners!

I would like to again refer to a really good blog post by Andrew, and what he terms the 3 i’s:

  • Interested – ask them what they are doing and who they are doing it with.
  • Informed – understand about what social networks are, what the games are, what are the benefits and what are the risks.
  • Involved – be involved in the students (or child’s) use of technology, keep them in sight and be there.

It makes a lot of sense. Teaching Grade 5, the idea of internet privacy & safety has come up in many classroom discussions, especially as I introduced a class blog this year, along with Google accounts for all of my students. Most of the students had personal email accounts, but the blog was a new idea. The concept of opening our classroom up to the world was exciting, but made me a little nervous. It however made me get involved in starting the process of educating them about cyberspace, and how easy it is to expose yourself to people who you have never met – the risks and the benefits. We have talked about it a lot, and in all of our lessons, I work in one aspect of cybersafety that is relevant to the teaching and learning going on. I like to think that I am interested, informed and involved, and that by modeling these behaviors, my students are as well.

Connectsafely.org has developed Tips to Help Stop Cyberbullying, which outlines behaviors and actions which may result in cyber bullying, as well as strategies to combat it. The thing I like about their approach is how “child friendly” it is. This is a resource that you could easily incorporate into technology lessons, and send home so that parents are involved as well.

Again, the key is education through collaboration. We all need to be involved, and we all need to learn. Don’t shy away from something you don’t know anything about, or you are uncomfortable dealing with. Take it on, find out more about it, and challenge it. By modeling “appropriate” strategies for cybersafety, those we are trusted with educating can only benefit. For those that run into trouble, reach out. Make them aware of who they can turn to. And most of all, make everyone aware that their experiences online aren’t really that much different from real-life situations. Just because you are facing a computer monitor, you are still exposed to risk.

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~ by yamaguru on April 22, 2009.

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