Sunday, June 28, 2009

Internet Safety

The following is a post from one of my MAT courses (specifically, "behavior management"). We've been talking about whether or not teachers should be allowed to have social networking profiles (Facebook, MySpace, etc), and whether or not these kinds of media can or should be incorporated into the classroom. I responded to a classmate's post (a bit of it is quoted below), and realized I had some pretty strong opinions. I figured I would re-post here and see what kind of response I would get.
"I had a student flip me the bird last year and it was because it was not on school property that it went unmentioned. So what if a student writes an inappropriate posting on FB? ... One mentioned (in a comment on a YouTube video of the school's chorus concert) that her parents often left her home alone. We have to be very careful what applications we use and encourage students to use since putting ourselves and them out there is like opening a Pandora's box."

Isn't this actually *more* of a reason why we should teach the use of these resources in school? I'm not an elementary school teacher, but we still teach stuff like stranger-safety in the younger grades, right? We teach about drugs and alcohol and safer sex at later ages. We teach students the dangers of drinking at prom or graduation.

We all admit, the internet is not going to disappear. We are not going to stop kids from using social networking sites-- trust me, most kids can find their way even around blocks and firewalls very quickly. And no, we cannot control what they say or post on those sites when they are on their own.

So why aren't we teaching internet safety? Why don't we have classes where we say something like, "Write a blog post about you doing something (made up) really stupid, and then Google it six weeks later to see how many places it has been re-posted"? Why aren't we showing kids how to use privacy features to control who sees their information, showing them why not to post their real names or personally identifiable information... etc?

We teach stranger safety and sex ed because we know we can't stop kids from eventually leaving the house on their own. If we can't stop them from using the internet, isn't it reasonable to teach them how to do it safely, instead of pretending it doesn't exist?


  1. Something to be aware of, that I didn't realize until another board member did a friend search, is that if you put your IM into a social networking site, people can find you with it. Whether they know you or not, if it's there, they can look.

    I have a facebook. It gives me the option to allow people to search for me via my email, which I allow, but never said anything about AIM. Which makes me a little upset, actually.

    I agree with your ideas. I've seen or heard about some of the things my friends have done or that they've found their younger siblings (read:13-year-olds) doing. They need to be aware of the dangers.

  2. I'm not sure how popular Nexopia is in the U.S. but locally, it is just a creepy place to me and it is seemingly populated by 13 year old years and freaky guys who hit on them via the internet. Now, maybe Nexopia can be a community where you can contact friends, but I don't think people know how inherently how to use it safely and protect themselves. It's definitely something that should be taught by more than just posters saying, "Your new friend Barbie could really be 40-year-old Frank." (A campaign I've seen around to raise awareness) I totally agree with your post.

  3. True, social networking isn't ever going to stop among students. However, shouldn't they already be covering internet safety? Why not make an entire chapter or unit's worth on it during web design or other technical classes. Many young teens and adults are incredibly naive to the dangers out there. There have been maybe a handful (less actually) of advertisements about it on t.v. but that's not enough. They blow it off, saying to themselves that it's a bunch of bull. Meanwhile in the time they've taken to think this, that picture they posted on myspace or facebook is busy being added as someone's background or 'to do' list. They have such an intense desire to fit in or recieve attention that, they neglect these details. They don't think about any of it. Even videos in the classroom on the subject might help. 'How to catch a Predator' comes to mind.
    As for teachers having social networking, I imagine that would be a bit tricky. You'd be walking on eggshells frequently that's for sure. Many students who are unhappy with their teachers will find anything they can use to get them fired or relocated to other schools. Then there's also those 'Student-Teacher' relationships everyone is always hearing on the news. Teacher's really get the short end of the stick here, because of all the public pressure. I once recall one of my High School's teachers being relocated because a student and her family came across him at beach in nothing but a thong swimsuit. There's a lot of complications that go with it, but I'm pretty sure there's got to be a way around it without ruining anything for the teachers.

  4. That is a very interesting point of view, and I agree. It makes sense to teach them Internet safety, esp. since we teach other kinds of safety in school.

  5. As a teacher in training, I thought I would toss out another perspective. I agree that we should be teaching internet skills to students and teaching them how to be safe on the internet is crucial anymore. However, why many teachers fear creating blogs or wikis or otherwise being involved on the internet is often because we have to cover our own backs. Teachers can have all sorts of allegations placed against them and we have to be very careful in what ways we interact with students, especially outside of school. The internet is a new way of communicating with students and there is always a fear that information could be tampered with or students could use teacher-made blogs and sites in innapropriate ways. Therefore, I feel teachers should be taught how to protect themselves on the internet as well so that they can make and maintain a safe environment on the web for students as well as in the classroom and protect themselves from unjust lawsuits.

  6. well this is 2 months later but I'm also a HS Education student and I find it a little weird and uncomfortable to have teachers on social networks like fb if ur not close with them. I mean you can see their private lives and sometimes you just dont like what you see.

    As well yes social networks are addicting and dangerous especially for future or current students because they are never permanently erased and a little digging can pull up a track record of everything. For that reason I remember when i was studying for International Baccalaureate Exams because of time zone differences students who wrote certain exams before were disclosing topics (although i doubt they are the same anyways) and they could get into a lot of trouble for those kinds of things besides the obvious internet safety.