There are lots of myths surrounding the use of technology in the classroom: it’s too expensive, the internet’s full of threats, the kids will get distracted – and the list goes on. We decided to bust some of these myths and show how technology can be a boon to every classroom. Every Monday for the month of May, eighth-grade teacher and tech-in-the-classroom expert Stacy Zeiger busts one of these myths wide open. Today’s is “The Internet is a Dangerous, Dangerous Place”.
The minute a student opens a browser window or logs onto a social networking site, some parents fear the worst. From internet predators to viewing inappropriate content, many teachers and parents avoid letting students access to technology because of their fears about safety. Even though you may hear and read stories about child predators, young students accessing inappropriate content and other issues of children’s safety being compromised while online, these issues are the exception, not the norm. In reality, a student’s biggest threat online isn’t the predators and inappropriate content, it’s himself and his peers.
The biggest threat to student safety
In 2011, a poll from MTV and the Associated Press found that approximately 56% of high school students have experienced abuse of some sort through digital media. This includes sexting, bullying and harassment. While that number is high, don’t confiscate the cell phones and cut off the internet access just yet. The survey also had some good news. Over 70 percent of teens recognize that sexting and cyber bullying are serious issues.
The fact that so many students recognize cyber bullying and sexting as serious issues means that someone is doing a good job of teaching them about it. In fact, that unsafe Internet is full of anti-bullying websites and media outlets that cater to teens have taken on anti-bullying and anti-sexting campaigns.
Keeping students safe
As a teacher, you can spend time worrying about your students’ safety online or you can use it as an opportunity to teach students about using the internet safely and choosing tools that do not compromise a child’s safety. Many online tools, such as Glogster, ToonDoo and Youtube, offer special versions of their websites designed for education. These sites have additional security features to keep students from accessing inappropriate information or from sending mean or inappropriate messages to each other. Blog and webpage creation websites, such as Kidblog, Edublogs and Weebly for Education, are designed to allow teachers to review all of a student’s activity. Just the threat of getting caught is usually enough to deter most students from doing anything negative online.
Monitor carefully to reduce risk
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, setting boundaries and monitoring internet use will also keep students from accessing inappropriate information or becoming the next victim of cyber bullying or internet predators. In the classroom, regularly walk around while students use computers, talk to them about what they are looking at and impose consequences for not looking at appropriate information. As a parent, place the computer in a central location in your home so you can see what websites your children accessing. Request passwords to social networking websites, blogs and online messenger services and check them randomly to keep your children on their toes.
Is there a risk of children accessing inappropriate information or being contacted by internet predators? Yes. Does technology use put a child at risk for cyber bullying? Yes. However, when you set rules and boundaries, find resources with extra safety features built in and educate children and teens about how to use technology safely, the risk is diminished.