Teaching Students the Realities of the Net: Its not all Fun

With the John Seingthaler Wikipedia scandal, we must again remember to teach our students that the Internet is quite different from the papers they write in the classroom. If they write unsubstantiated information in a paper - they may or may not get an F. If they write inaccurate information online - they may lose their job, or their credibility.

I talked with my eighth grade students today about Myspace. Three quarters of them have an account -- none of them realized all of their information was viewable to everyone out there. I discussed how they have put their information on the "public domain." They didn't even know what that was.

I think that the laws we have to protect children must extend that to the Internet. We would not let our children stand on a busy street corner talking to strangers -- but we are letting them share their information with the world.

I wonder how many parents have read their children's myspace. Today one school superintendant sent home letters to parents urging them to have their children remove private information from myspace.

Children can post photographs and other items on both flickr and myspace. The scary thing is, there is new technology out there that will allow a search engine of sorts to match photographs. A predator could scan in a photo of a child they have spotted and feasibly in a couple of years, using this technology, they could match with the child's myspace account -- see what parties they have been invited to and what they are chatting about.

It is a whole new world out there. Legislators are very slow at understanding and responding to new technology and rarely act to protect children until several terrible cases happen. I do not want my students to be the case discussed in Congress with their name on a bill.

What I am going to do in my classroom and school:
  • Educate parents on myspace and how they can monitor children's activities
  • Educate students on their loss of privacy through newspaper articles posted on my student blog
  • Introduce case studies in my computer science class to discuss pro con of various legislation that could be in.
Let's face it -- a 60 year old Congressman is not going to be educated about these issues -- their children are older and many have stopped learning about new technology. It is our job to educate the legislators of tomorrow. I feel we have a predator-sphere where the predators are getting the upper hand and children are becoming easy targets. Wake up!

Many states such as Maryland are waking up to this fact. I think we need more proactive education of students. What do you think?

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