News Flash: The Internet’s Not That Bad

The internet isn’t as dangerous as people think, and teachers should let students use social networks at school.

No, that’s not me talking. That’s one recommendation from the National School Boards Association!

Wow!

Their conclusion is drawn from a study (pdf) recently released by the organization that found a big disconnect between the perceived problems with students using social networking sites and reality.

An example of the findings:

Only 20% said they’d seen “inappropriate” pictures on social networking sites in the last 3 months. (And only 11% of parents concur, even for the last 6 months.) Only 18% of the students said they’d seen “inappropriate” language, and just 7% reported they’d been “cyberbullied,” or asked about their personal identity on a social networking site.

However, as I’ve said before when it comes to studies, surveys and polls, look at who is paying the bills.

In this case it’s Microsoft, NewsCorp (parent company of MySpace) and Verizon. Certainly none of them have a stake in any of this. :-)

But putting that aside, positive statements about the read/write web coming from an organization representing many of the groups that set policy for schools could be a very good thing.

At the very least, maybe this can trigger a serious discussion between teachers, administrators, students, and parents about the possible instructional use of a wide range of communications tools.

Instead of the over-hyped, news-at-11, Dateline/tabloid stories that politicians love and that seem to crowd out other rational conversation.

As the study notes, it’s still important to teach students about safely and responsibly working online.

But, the report continues, “students may learn these lessons better while they’re actually using social networking tools”.

Double wow!

6 thoughts on “News Flash: The Internet’s Not That Bad

  • August 8, 2007 at 6:52 pm
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    Pretty sad commentary on what we’re used to when it seems amazing when something reasonable appears in the press or from a national organization!

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  • August 8, 2007 at 9:47 pm
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    So, basically 1 out of every 5 students do see inappropriate images. Let’s see, if I do this over the 400 upper grade kids at my school (an estimate), that is 80 kids exposed. I think that is kind of problematic.

    Let’s try this experiment:

    Let’s ask the parents of 400 kids how many of them want their child to be exposed to inappropriate images during the school day. Do you think we will get 80 to say yes?

    I think it is worrisome that this is still a high figure. I also worry about the folks who believe that students will be “desensitized” by showing them images that are inappropriate.

    Should we lock out all social networking from schools? Seems like a bit of a reactionary thing to do, doesn’t it? But, we need to ask ourselves, how are we going to deal with the issue of inappropriate and socially unacceptable behaviors of others using the system and the same behaviors from our students within the system. We should be on the way to a serious discussion of this before opening up all the doors.

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  • August 12, 2007 at 10:48 pm
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    Aron,

    I agree with your idea about desensitization and that’s an issue that we have to consider regarding many issues beyond the scope of technology.

    However, the basic fact remains that these images are not avoidable in the real world. Children will see them. We aren’t doing them any favours by assuming they don’t exist because of school districts that block like crazy. The exposure to inappropriate material should be very insignificant if we equip teachers with strategies of use and purpose that directs them to engage in appropriate and meaningful content.
    Yes, accidents will happen but with proper training and setup, there should be way fewer than 400 images a day.

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