I’m a big fan of technology and web 2.0 opportunities. My students have their own blogs and we have several class wikis (all in Blackboard because that’s our county’s system). We have a class delicious site with a growing number of links, some of which relate to our curriculum and some that don’t. They’re learning how to use Movie Maker, Photo Story, Audacity, and more this year. I find all of this very exciting.
On the down side, I just came face to face with one of the challenges of online activity. About half of my class spends time on a social-networking site (for which you have to be 13 to register; my students are not 13). One student received threatening messages through the site including references to a recent assault in our area and personal information. We suspected these messages came from another student at our school, but couldn’t be sure and turned the matter over to the police. The police did a fantastic job and traced the messages to the home of a student. Fortunately, we could rule out the possibility of a stranger lurking around the school and homes of students. Sadly, it means another fifth grader felt a need to anonymously terrify a classmate.
I teach in a title one school, I don’t expect most of my students to have consistent access to the internet. It’s clear to me that I have relied on that as a safety net. The majority of our students don’t have access at home. However, plenty do and we’ve done precious little to educate them about being safe online. In this instance, of which we are aware of the specifics, there wasn’t really any danger. But it did show me that they are online and in places they shouldn’t be. It seems I have a responsibility here.
Therein lies my question about it all. What is my responsibility? I consider myself to be fairly savvy about the online world, certainly more so than the parents of our students. I can, and will, teach my students more about internet safety. However, I think their parents need to be educated as well. If students have computers with internet access in their bedrooms or in basements isolated from the family, they will push the boundaries. Parents need to be watching, talking, and aware of their children’s activities. How do we help ensure that or at least promote it?