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Web Safety

Posted on: April 4, 2011

Which aspects of WEB safety are of most concern in your teaching institution?

            Some students at my school have a lot of ‘smarts’ about using the net whereas others have basically no safety precautions being reinforced at home at all. Some students have anytime access to the internet and some have only supervised small amounts and yet others have little or no access at all due to not having a computer in their home. None of these situations are ideal as the students as the user doesn’t need to practice exerting control over what they are viewing online.  Those students that are too familiar with the net try to access controversial sites at school or tell other students about these sites. Those students with very little internet usage don’t even know what safety issues even exist yet alone to look out for them.

             Another issue at our school is that kids are very much unaware of the amount of marketing that is targeted to them. I’ve seen it time and again that students say “Oh Ms. J, they just wanted my name and age so I can register to play the game.” They often don’t even know what the site really is! The students just know they want to play that game or see that clip.

            Perhaps the most prevalent internet safety issue seemly at my school is the haphazard and naive way that students search and process information. Certainly luring / abuse is of utmost importance when discussing internet safety but chat sites, messaging, social networking and even non-school email have been blocked from our school accounts by the school board. So this has become essentially an at-home concern for my students, although it is still discussed at school. Many students like to use Google images for project visuals however; many inappropriate images often come up because of the key words that were searched.  Also, the quality of information that students find is never questioned. Students at my school seem to very much buy into the idea that if it’s on a web site it must be true. They do not transfer critical literacy skills to the internet.

How do teachers better effect positive change in students who routinely access knowledge and fact through the use of computer and when conveying information?

            Teachers and parents together need to help students to make smarter choices when using the internet. Teachers can’t effectively teach kids to be safe online if it is not supported at home and teachers need to understand that not everyone has the means or internet knowledge to be able to help teach students about internet safety.  At our school we have a RCMP school liaison officer who throughout the year delivers a few brief talks about issues such as online bullying, luring, etc. It would be nice if this could be more of a routine chat as opposed to the occasional visit. The officers help support teachers in what to look out for as well as being one other adult of trust in a child’s life. I think we can help students change what they are doing online though open discussion. I think that children really do need to have a good relationship with their teachers and feel comfortable coming to them if they stumble upon some inappropriate content. Too strict ‘zero tolerance’, immediate suspension, type of policies do not allow students to learn or grow from a mistake or that of their peers whereas discussion and a focus lesson could be quite effective.

What is a useful method that could improve the handling of WEB safety or the values (ale text readings) in your profession and in your school?

            In 2011 parents have more to do than ever and one more often uncomfortable conversation to have with their kids is internet safety. Like safe sex talks of past generations, children feel like they know everything (or at least more than their parents) and parents need to carefully weigh in on what amount of information is enough to keep their kids safe but not so much to scare them. However, parents need to have internet safety discussions with their children or else most of what is being said on the matter at school falls on deaf ears.

            The Halifax Regional School Board used to have students and parents both sign acceptable use policies for the computers but now the classroom teacher signs a policy for the whole class on the students’ behalf. I assume this is with the expectation that the students are only having supervised computer use and using pre-selected sites. Our school board has also blocked Hotmail, Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, blogs and many other sites from all school property computers which further helps to decrease the possibility of students accessing inappropriate material however; again the onus to think about what is being viewed,  is removed from the student.  While I think these policies certainly lower the risk of students stumbling into inappropriate content and that is paramount, I don’t necessarily believe a blanket ban of many sites is the most effective way to keep our students safe. These banning policies do not transfer the responsibility to the student to think about what they are searching for and what they are seeing. Without guided opportunities to be critical of what they are viewing or searching, whenever students are unsupervised around a computer they are now left wading through a potential mine field of safety concerns on their own.

            In 2011, it is essential for students to be technologically literate and part of that encompasses using technology wisely and safely. Like language, math or science, these technology goals need to be included in our school curriculums in a real way, not just as add-ons. Departments of Education and school boards need to begin explicitly teaching technology outcomes and grading students’ performance using said technology. This could help emphasize the importance of appropriate technology use to both students and parents. A curriculum guide for teachers would be supportive for all teachers to plan technology based lessons but it would be especially be of value to those who are reluctant to incorporate technology into their craft because of lack of knowledge.

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