Social Media Moms

An Early Childhood Education on Acceptable Internet Usage

1 Comment 15 June 2012

Face it, parents. As much as you fret over the dangers your children might encounter online, the Internet and social networking sites aren’t going away or getting any safer. A majority of people now use the Internet on a daily basis, including very young children, and as such many schools have taken notice and included more meaningful Internet safety courses to their curriculum. But if your kids’ early childhood education program or school isn’t putting forth the effort to teach these essential skills — how to be conscientious of predators, report and not participate in cyberbullying or use intellectual property lawfully — it’s your task to monitor and inform the decisions they make online.

Internet Education Can’t Wait Until High School

Although slow, awareness is growing. According to a recent survey, about half of all U.S. school districts require their students to take classes in proper Internet usage. One of the holdups is that most teachers, especially those of older generations, have not been adequately instructed on how to teach such topics as online ethics and the potential dangers of social media and networking, even though many students routinely use them. It doesn’t help that in nearly every school district, sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked, leaving children and preteens to fend for themselves on cellphones or at home, where they might not receive any guidance. Furthermore, a large percentage of the 1,1003 teachers surveyed — about three quarters — believe that instructing children on safe Internet usage should occur not at school but in the home.

But another study suggests that, despite teachers’ wishes, instruction at home isn’t happening. According to a poll conducted by Scholastic, Inc., about half of all elementary- and middle school- age children don’t believe that hacking is a crime, to say nothing of cyber-bullying and so-called “sexting.” In light of the results of this poll, Jerry Crystal, the technology coordinator at Carmen Arace Middle School in Bloomfield, Connecticut, believes that schools should be doing more to guide students’ behavior online. According to him, the answer doesn’t lie in blocking sites like Facebook — savvy students will figure out a way around the firewall anyway -but in giving young people guidance in the context of traditional disciplines like math and science.

Says Crystal, “Every teacher at the school teaches technology” on top of their normal teaching duties. Students, each of whom is issued his or her own laptop, is taught not only “cuber ethics” but also valuable lessons such as that downloading bootlegged music and videos is intellectual theft and can introduce viruses into their computers.

Another strategy being discussed to keep young children protected is to acknowledge that, despite attempts to prevent them from visiting Facebook or Twitter, they’re going to do it anyway; as such, special social networking sites tailored specifically to children should be created. Stephen Balkam, of the Family Online Safety Institute, proposes that Facebook should lead the charge in designing a “Facebook Junior,” of sorts, with more stringent and rigorous protection and privacy settings than the regular Facebook we’re all accustomed to. Such a site would serve as a set of training wheels, so to speak, for children who aren’t yet ready to make mature decisions on the “adult” Facebook.

But even if “Facebook Junior” were to launch tomorrow, it would still be essential for parents and guardians to get more involved in their children’s online activity.

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1 comment

  1. William says:

    In terms of utilizing technology in a positive way, there are a number of educational iPad apps for children. A Jazzy ABC is a great one I’ve found. It teaches ABCs and educates children on jazz music.

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