Cybersafety: Keeping Children Safe When They Use the Web
Despite its great potential, the Internet poses significant dangers to children (Berson & Berson, 2004; Berson et al., 2001; Burgstahler and Utterback, 2000). We teachers must be sure that students do not come into contact with adults seeking face-to-face meetings with children (“cyberpredators”). We must be sure that students do not access Websites that have pornography, misinformation, or hate-based material. Federal law, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) passed in 2000, requires schools that receive federal funding for technology to take measures to protect children using the Internet. Most schools have chosen commercial filtering systems, which are problematic. Even the most reliable filtering systems can fail, and we teachers need to identify cyberthreats “as a real dilemma” and be “vigilant in responding to the needs of children for the sake of both safety and learning” (Berson, Berson, & Ralston, 1999, p. 161). The best way to protect our students is to closely supervise their Internet activities. One way to provide close supervision is to be sure that the computer screens in our classrooms face the center of the room and are easy to see. Teachers should use several tools to protect our students. In addition to close supervision, these include using effective filtering software that blocks access to inappropriate sites and implementing suggestions on Websites that address online child safety, like the CyberAngels Internet Safety Organization (www.cyberangels.org). Finally, teachers may want to consider a strategy advocated by Berson and Berson (2004): Teach children about the problems of privacy on the Internet directly.
There are many things students should not do while working on the computer. Students should never give out personal information. This includes their full name, address, phone number, and name of the school. Students should never send a photograph of themselves to any location on the Web, nor should they engage in any kind of “conversation” through the Internet unless the teacher knows for sure who else is participating. Students should stop using the computer and tell their teacher if they find material that makes them uncomfortable or confused.
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