Schoolboards deem that darn Interweb safe!!

The internet isn’t as dangerous as people think, and teachers should let students use social networks at school.
That’s the surprising new recommendation from the National School Boards Association — a not-for-profit organization representing 95,000 school board members — in a new study funded by Microsoft, News Corporation, and Verizon.
It warns that many fears about the internet are just overblown. “School district leaders seem to believe that negative experiences with social networking are more common than students and parents report,” the study reports. For example, more than half the districts think sharing personal information has been “a significant problem” in their schools — “yet only 3% of students say they’ve ever given out their email addresses, instant messaging screen names or other personal information to strangers.
“In fact, the Association and resesearchers at Grunwald Associates LLC surveyed 1,277 students online (between the ages of 9 and 17) — along with 1,039 parents, and 250 school district leaders “who make decisions on internet policy.” And the students reported big differences from the adults’ concerns. Only 20% said they’d seen “inappropriate” pictures on social networking sites in the last 3 months. (And only 11% of parents concur, even for the last 6 months.) Only 18% of the students said they’d seen “inappropriate” language, and just 7% reported they’d been “cyberbullied,” or asked about their personal identity on a social networking site.
Furthermore, the numbers got even smaller when the students were asked about more worrisome situations. Only 4% of the students said they’d ever had an online conversation that made them uncomfortable, and only 2% said an online stranger tried to meet them in person. In fact, after surveying 1,277 students, the researchers found exactly one who reported they’d actually met a person from the internet without their parents’ permission — and described this as “0.08 percent of all students.”
“Only a minority of students has had any kind of negative experience with social networking in the last three months,” the study concludes. “Even fewer parents report that their children have had a negative experience over a longer 6-month period.”
The researchers concluded that the vast majority of students “seem to be living by the online safety behaviors they learn at home and at school.” Many students even reported that they were using the social networks to discuss their schoolwork or other education-related topics.

Yet fear of safety for children continues to haunt policy — both at school boards and the national level. (In May, a Senate resolution was co-sponsored by Barack Obama and Joe Lieberman
highlighting how dangerous they thought the internet could be.) The National School Boards Association found strict controls had taken hold at most schools over student internet access.

  • 84% of school districts have rules against online chatting in school
  • 81% have rules against instant messaging in school
  • 62% prohibit blogging or participating in online discussion boards at school.
  • 60% prohibit sending and receiving email in school
  • 52% prohibit any social networking sites in school

“Students and parents report fewer recent or current problems, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and unwelcome personal encounters than school fears and policies seem to imply,” the study notes.

Schoolboards: net dangers over-rated; bring social networks to school – TECH.BLORGE.com

Okay. First of all… this is wacky. There’s a lot more to that article– and I’m sure people will find it exciting and/or interesting. It makes me furrow my brow for reasons threefold.

a) Funny how the people funding the research = Microsoft, News Corporation, and Verizon! Three companies with a HUGE investment in youth & tech. So, yes, understandable they would want to continuously research, to improve and engage. But, yes, they would also want to say “Calm, calm, oh ye world! Fear not that in-ter-net. It’s safe for even the most prudent of social-curmudgeons… SCHOOL!” Brian Eagan, the new head of web here at Star Farm, and I were rambling about it today. Neither one of us were overly impressed with their study size for kids….

b) I’m all for community (naturally) and I’m all for tech-knowledge progression in youth… but to have such non-scholastic conversations going on during SCHOOL hours? Come on now. There’s no reason why Joey Talksalot should be checking his Facebook account while he’s supposed to be developing spreadsheets in Excel during high school computer class. There’s no reason why Cherubface McGee should have an IM window open during a lecture on dinosaurs in biology while working on her laptop.

The thing is– teachers & principals are now being held responsible for the social interactions of their student body online. Sure, the kids are webbin’ it up at home… but due to the fact that most conversations are in regards to some event from their time at school– people look at the schools to help with punishment. Once again, teachers are expected to be the parents– dishing out punishment & expected to act as full-time moral compasses to their classrooms.

I have SEVERAL friends teaching High School and Junior High classes who are REPETITIVELY pulled into meetings with parents, students, and the Principal regarding some BLOW-OUT that happened on line (cyberbullying) that was a result of some interactivity from school.

“Marcia asked Rick out during lunch. Alicia was really upset so she attacked Marcia’s myspace will all her private secrets! Now Marcia left a comment threatening Alicia’s life. DO SOMETHING! Shouldn’t you be watching our kids? Why are they doing this?”

It’s a liability. Let’s look back shall we– to the 80 kids (youngest 11) who decided to grab their favorite BAT and PLANK OF WOOD WITH NAIL COMING OUT and head to the local baseball field for an all out rumble– all organized, encouraged, and blown-out-of-proportion by good ole BEBO!! Can you imagine if that Bebo-action had stemmed from SCHOOL?! Great Godzilla! That would be bad.

In a perfect world? Kids could have clarification & discussion about lectures on their instant messaging devices. Kids could join communities to empower and education one other on bigger issues– like politics, environment, history!

C) If social networking really IS the trend of the future… (as I believe it is)… lets GO GORE on it! I mean, let’s GO GREEN… I mean… let’s go all MTV on it.

If you’re catching the thread there… Several institutions have been successful in making SMART empowerment cool & edgy. Whether you like the politics of the Gore-man or not– you’ve GOT to admit he’s done a really good job of reaching youth & giving them the responsibility of their own future. Think.mtv.com, Invisiblechildren.org, change.org– those are proactive sites. Allowing social interaction to be a proactive experience. Giving youth the right kind of podium they need to help shape the future of the world. Save their own futures. Be active, be strong, CARE! Those are the kind of social networks that could be very valuable to a classroom experience.

Also– build edgy, unique platforms that help students get the socialization & education & edginess they need/desire, while creating such an Admin system that teachers/schools have less liability and in fact– more empowerment for themselves.

The web isn’t all “that” safe. It never will be. There are too many unknown variables… Do you really want your kids running around the neighborhood in the dark while you’re not home? I hope your answer is no.

So… when at school… let’s keep the kids focused on SCHOOL. If you’re going to implement social networks– make it be part of an assignment, part of a project, or part of a study, and not a distraction or a disruption.

I apologize if I seem overly opinionated or judgemental… I just get frustrated and worried.  Day in and day out I see how kids speak to each other when they don’t think anyone is watching (screening/moderating comments), and I see how quick to react & emotional they are because each are hidden behind a faceless computer unable to gage reactions, and I see the kind of information they put about themselves and each other in the web.

Kids are INDEED getting better about their web safety.  But it’s still a long road ahead.

At least that’s my piece. Feel free to disagree or chime in!!!

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  1. oneandonlyhypnos
    August 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    I can understand you. The internet is far from safe and many children and teenagers put out way too much personal information of themselves on the web. The web is filled with dangers such as sexual predators and internet bullying by peers just to name a few. But on the other hand, we are not able to stop this evolution. We can only hope to make children aware of the dangers and learn how to deal with the internet responsible.

  1. August 15, 2007 at 6:32 pm

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