Back to School, and Computers

by techtiptom

Originally posted on WIBC.com on 08/20/2009:

Art and English teachers are in good positions to recognize early warning signs of violence in students’ drawings and poems. Today, we have to add to that list any adult who works with kids using computers since young people use them so much as a part of their daily lives. Artistic work, word processing assignments, and other student computer work could provide a “red flag” of potential signs of violence and safety concerns if adults are alert.

Today, schools have “acceptable use” policies for use of school computers and clear consequences for those who violate such policies. We have heard of numerous examples of computer misuse: Kids using school computers to make counterfeit money; students coordinating a gang fight online; and even a story in the Houston area where students allegedly placed keystroke monitors on their teacher’s PC to gain information on test content and/or answers.

The best line of defense for avoiding student misuse of, or potential harm caused by, computers (whether at school or at home) remains active adult supervision. Parents should not allow students to spend hours in their rooms in computer chat rooms, sending email, or surfing the Internet. They should keep their computer out in a common family room where kids can be supervised. The same concept applies in schools: Adult monitoring and supervision.

Internet filters, having students log in and out with individually identifiable accounts, strong firewall and associated anti-hacking protection of computers, and related strategies can also help school officials reduce safety risks. School officials should also employ adequate physical security measures to protect the increasingly high-value equipment housed in schools.

School officials should periodically do searches of their school names on Google and other search engines to see what pops up. It would not be surprising to hear that a school official found out that an unofficial web site or chat room exists for their school. Educators may also pick up on other leads of potential problems or conflicts, troubled students, etc.

Education and awareness is critical. We have to educate teachers about how computers and related technology being used in schools can be misused by individuals with bad intentions. Many adults, including parents and school employees, are playing catch-up with the kids in their understanding of technology. We need to level the playing field by better educating adults including parents. We also need to better educate kids about Internet predators and related safety threats online.
For related information on Internet Safety, visit: I-Safe, http://www.isafe.org.

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