wasting bandwidth since 1999

Let’s Be Careful Out There

We continue to wrestle with the concept of internet safety in our overly-large school district.

Specifically, how do we implement the directive from the all-knowing members of state legislature to teach the subject to every student in the system?

During a discussion this morning on a different topic a phrase began swirling through my warped little mind that seems to tie nicely into this topic.

The accidental audience.

Whenever we teach students about developing any communications, part of the process requires them to assess and plan for their prospective audience.

But what happens when you’re creating a blog, podcast, or video for distribution on the web?

Certainly they should still start by understanding who will be most likely to drop by to sample our product.

However, what about the accidental audience, the people who didn’t know they were looking for our work but found it anyway?

There’s no way to specifically plan for those unknowns, of course. But it’s important for students to realize they need to consider how the words and images they use will reflect on them.

And not just at the time of publication.

The web has a persistence and a randomness which means materials out of mind, may not be out of sight. I can think of at least two major programs archiving web sites, not to mention the every growing blob of data that is Google.

What goes up, may never come down.

Rather than trying to scare students with visions of the latest Dateline tabloid piece, we could approach the subject of safety in part by talking to students about how to project a positive image to the world.

After all, if you put information about yourself out on the web, you want the people who find it (including people like prospective employers, dates, and potential in-laws), to see your best face.

Most of the accidental audience I’ve encountered in the process of publishing on the web has been great, often pointing to wonderful resources and teaching me something new.

But all of us (kids especially) still need to include in their planning the few members of that group who aren’t as ethical as we would like.

internet safety, blogs, audience


  1. Dee

    I think this is a great post and I would like to see more elaboration on how we can do this. A tutorial for how to project a positive image telling students more what TO do while still explaining but not putting quite as much emphasis on what NOT to do.
    There is so much talk on the web right now about empowering students – I think that giving them tools to use instead of tying their hands is the best approach. Thanks for this article.

  2. Carolyn Foote

    I love this notion of the accidental audience.
    And in fact, I think it’s one of the best things about blogging is the unexpected connections.

    But I agree, while students are online everywhere, they are somewhat less aware of the notion of presenting themselves well online or of the permanence of what seems to them to be a space just their own.

    I also like your idea in the previous post of students helping to develop the policies or programs about wise internet use themselves.

    I saw a project like that on the Cool Cat Teacher blog, where students had created a wiki about internet use and safety. And it’s probably more credible to the students because they created it themselves.

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