Monday, May 16, 2005

Safety online

I have been reading Will's posts here and here on schools that have banned Xanga and similar sites. A constant theme is tht children/teens give out all sorts of personal information on those sites and are, therefore, just waiting for a pedophile to find them. So the schools don't allow access to the sites at school.

Now, I must preface my remarks by saying that I am a parent and a grandparent. I have been a teacher my whole life, it seems. I am very concerned about the safety and well-being of my own family and of all the children in the world. But I think we are making a mistake here with the line of reasoning used by the schools.

I think that the best protection that we can give our young people is to deal with the issues head on. Yes, there are pedophiles out there who may be reading their posts. So how can they learn to protect themselves? If students are out there using Xanga on their own with no one talking to them about how to do it responsibly, they are much more vulnerable than if they are blogging in school and learning about the dangers and the ways to avoid or at least limit the possible problems. They also have an adult to whom they can talk about things that happen on their blogs, like inapppropriate comments and such. Anne Davis writes in connection with her elementary school students:
The last time an inappropriate comment happened the student brought it to the attention of the Instructional Technology Specialist. Now that occurred because we had previously talked to the students about the possibility of receiving inappropriate comments. Together with the students we made a plan of action for how we would handle it. Basically we decided:

1. We would not respond to the irresponsible commenters. We would ignore them.
2. The student would report any inappropriate comments to the teacher.
3. The teachers would delete inappropriate comments, if they found them first but would discuss the matter with the owner of the blog and with the group, if appropriate.
4. We agreed that it was unfortunate that the commenter had not used common sense and we would try to set good examples on our blogs.

If my grandson, who is almost nine, wanted to blog, I would much prefer that he do it with me or with his parents or his teacher to guide him than to think he was out there just doing it on his own.

Do we really think banning Xanga and similar sites from schools means the young people aren't out there using them? If anything, I would expect that more teens would try it out because it was banned!

It is reminiscent to me of the arguments about sex ed in schools or birth control for teens. If we ignore the "problem", it won't just go away.

1 comment:

Marilee Scott said...

This is such a tricky question because the adults who would like to try to police such use by their children or students are often so unable to understand either the technology or the impact that the technology is having on the way children live now.

I generally agree with you that informed discussion is the best way to manage problems down the road, but so many teachers and parents simply don't know what kinds of plusses and minusses there are in an online life--and think, not unreasonably, when it comes down to it, that the kind of publicness that comes with writing online might be inappropriate or dangerous for an child.