The best internet safety filter is the parents’ knowledge and involvement in their kids’ online activities, according to panelists this morning at NSBA’s T+L conference in Dallas.
And parents, teachers, and administrators will have quite a bit of more information to work with beginning next spring, when NSBA plans to release results from a newly funded study of social networking.
Sharnell Jackson, Chief eLearning Officer, Chicago Public Schools, discussed the challenges of setting and administering online safety policies in a district that enrolls 430,000 students. The challenge facing educators now is to recreate the learning environment using student-directed social networking as a kind of model, using communication theory, social networking theory, and gaming theory.
Kimberly Jessie, attorney with the Dallas firm Bacewell & Giuliani, cited cases of students suing school districts for disciplinary action taken against them for online activities, and cases of teachers and administrators filing individual lawsuits against students for their online activities. Cyber bullying among student also is a “huge” problem, she said.
Sgt. Byron Fassett of the Dallas Police Child Exploitation Squad recommended three sources of information: The Justice Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children program; The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and its program NetSmartz.
Parents must understand how social networking sites work, and they need to set rules for their kids, he said. It’s so easy for predators to learn about the kids’ likes and dislikes, to get inside their heads, and then to become whatever the kids want them to be. Fassett agreed that cyber-bullying is also a big issue, and pointed out that kids can’t run away from bullies when it’s taking place on the computer screen in their own homes.