As a mother and teacher, I constantly think about how to keep my child/students safe. We have drills at school to protect our students from fires, tornadoes, and lock downs, but it is easy to forget that the internet can be just a dangerous! When it comes to the increase of technology and having everything at our fingertips, it is just as easy for dangerous situations to occur with a few clicks of a mouse. I've spent some time researching the topic. In the link below, I've created a top ten list that should be discussed and taught to students.
Top Ten List on Internet Safety
The biggest issue we face with our students is social networking. Many of the students have their own facebook page, twitter, or some other type of online social account. I will admit that I have one to stay in touch with family members and old friends. However, I do not wish to be friends with my students or their parents! I really believe that is crossing the line of professionalism. As an educator, it is my job to be a role model to my students. I'm here to help them learn academics as well as provide them ways to be become successful adults. I'm not an educator to be their friend. I also feel the same way about my students' parents. Parents and teachers should always keep the lines of communication open and stay consistent with students, but being friends with parents is crossing the line. I know there are a few exceptions. Teachers are human too and sometimes they do find relationships with his or her students. However, I try to maintain a professional relationship only. My district seems to have the same opinion considering the fact they have blocked many of the social networks for students and educators.
My district takes internet safety very seriously. We have a program the will flag any student or staff member that use in appropriate searches. I actually learned about this the hard way. MY first year in the district, I had found out about the program, but I thought it was only for students. Staff members do have more leniency, but they are still monitored. Well, being a science teacher, on of the topics I happen to teach is sexual reproduction. So, when I was conducting a search of slang terms that one of my students asked in my Question box, I was flagged. Within a hour of my search, my principal was in my class demanding to know what I had been doing! Luckily, all was explained, and everybody had a good laugh; however, I learned my lesson to conduct my "sex question research" at home.
Even though teachers are given a little more leniency, the district monitors our students very closely. Students and staff members are required to use a login and password to open anything on the computers. Once it is logged on the program will monitor all internet searches for that particular individual. Each month, our technology specialist will receive a report on any student/staff that was conducting inappropriate searches. Being that I work in a middle school, we do have students that like to test the limits. The most common search seems to be with the word "poop." Our specialist will give each report to the principal, and he will make the judgement call. I had a student in my class that kept attempting to look up Selena Gomez in a bikini instead of researching his biome project. The principal did talk to this student and give him some consequences for his actions. He was suspended from using the computers for one week. He also was warned that if it happened again, more serious consequences would happen. This particular student definitely learned his lesson because he couldn't work on his project at school, so he had a lot homework. Usually, the principal doesn't hold the teacher accountable, but he will definitely make us aware of situations like this one. When I made aware, I have a tendency to keep an extra eye on those students.
Despite the fact that the district has blocked access to many websites that are deemed inappropriate, there are some rare occasions that one is not blocked. If that ever happens, the teachers are required to let the principal and technology specialist know right away. They also should communicate with the parents. As long as the teacher lets everyone know, many times the situation is handled without any problems and the website will be blocked by the district. Most of the time, the parents understand that these things happen and use this as a great learning experience on digital responsibility. However, if the teacher doesn't take the right actions, they will be held accountable.
When it comes to internet searches, I like to say that I pretty knowledgeable; however, I know there are always new techniques. Luckily, I have many databases available through my school district, so it makes it a little easier to find reliable material. As a teacher, I try to teach my students about reliable sources as well. I have to admit, my district has made is much easier with databases. If I don't use the data bases, I try to teach my students common websites that are considered reliable. To make it easier for them, I like to tell them to look at the .org or .edu's first!
As a well to instill internet safety an digital citizenship into our students, our district has invested in iSafe. Each quarter, a subject area will take a day to talk about internet safety through age appropriate lesson plans provided from iSafe.org. I usually teach lessons on social networking.