In this 21st century, parents, educators, and administrators not only have to think of ways to keep children safe at home and in school, but they must also have a plan in mind for keeping children safe when using the Internet! Within the school system, it is necessary for principals to promote and enforce environmentally safe and healthy practices in the use of technology. It is also important for parents to become knowledgeable about these practices as well.
Well just what is out there that we must keep our kids safe from? There is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of technology for social cruelty, which can include harassment, impersonation, and stalking. Cyberbullies may use email, chat rooms, discussion forums, instant messaging, cell phone text messaging or popular teen web sites such as MySpace.com. Our children may also become victims to cyber predators who use the Internet to hunt for victims to take advantage of in ANYway, including sexually, emotionally, psychologically or financially. Cyber predators know how to manipulate kids, creating trust and friendship where none should exist. Then there are the seemingly fun and exciting social networks that uses the Internet for online communication through an interactive network of photos, web logs, user profiles, e-mail, and web forums. Some degree of danger does exist for these users since predators do indeed use sites like MySpace to converse with teens and possibly lure them into physical contact.
What must we do to protect our kids? First, all stakeholders must be aware of the hidden dangers of certain Internet use. That means parents, teachers, and administrators must stay informed about student uses of technology. Teach students about potential hazards of all online environments. Parents must have constant conversations with their children about what they are doing, and when possible, sit down with their children and SEE what they are doing on the computer. Administrators must also have a school-wide plan in place. This plan might include familiarizing themselves about all aspects of computer technology, forming a technology team that comprises staff members, parents and students to act in an advisory capacity to the larger school community, educating staff members and students on using technology within the boundaries of the law, guiding teachers and students on how the Internet can serve as effective educational tools, and conducting orientation sessions for parents regarding student use of the Internet. With certain plans in place, we can keep our kids out of cyber trouble!