The letter began:
I would like to make you aware of an emerging national concern regarding the inappropriate use of the Internet and other electronic communication devices by students. This problem has the potential to be harmful, and I ask your support as we work together to address this challenge. I also want to make you aware of a new policy the district has implemented to help protect students from such inappropriate usesWOW, emerging national concern...I sent a link to the letter out on my twitter network and was AMAZED at the flurry of responses that I received
Please take some time to look at the contents of the letter sent home to all parents as well as the letter of response that I sent to the Superintendent below.
I WELCOME comments here... What is happening in your schools?
------FOR MY READERS-------
I understand that with stories like Growing Up Online - PBS Frontline it is no wonder parents have concerns about what their children are doing online. But I was a bit taken aback at the nature and tone of the letter I received in my son’s backpack on Friday regarding the district's electronics policy and internet use. Perhaps if there was an “incident” that I was aware of as the parent of an elementary that precipitated such scare tactics I might have been more understanding of the tone and nature of the letter. I agree that parents need to be more aware of what their children are doing on the internet however as a parent, if I didn't have some understanding of some of the benefits of social networks the letter would have scared me. I think parents are often too quick to judge their childrens' actions and this letter may have caused parents to react in a way that they may not had they had more information.
As an educator, I believe it is our responsibility to educate. The National School Boards Association has publicly stated that safety concerns over online social networking are overblown, and recommends that schools become more comfortable with social networks and seek educational uses for online social networking. Rather than pointing parents to the MySpace homepage, it would have been more informative to sent parents interested in learning more to the parent section of my space . I heard mention that iSafe was being implemented in the intermediate school, perhaps a link to their iparent portal to allow parents to become informed as to how to protect their children would have been more useful. Most of the incidents of kids bullying each other via cyber bullying happens outside school. If blocking these sites vs. educating the students and parents as to the reason these sites are being blocked is your only statement, well that to me is of grave concern.
Nowhere in the letter were the positive impacts of social networking mentioned. I think it is necessary for parents to understand WHY kids are involved in social networking.
For the most part, there are no ill intentions. As a matter of fact quite the opposite. I wrote after the tragedy at VA Tech about this facebook group which is still active to this day helping people through their grieving process. You may have been following the articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer regarding a student at my HS who has been struggling with depression and has been fighting back after a suicide attempt earlier this year. Being able to see the students' wishes of support through his facebook group has been extremely powerful. This Sunday’s article, in the Inquirer ended with a text message from Jordan’s best friend “I jus wanna let u no I nvr thought I wud ride that elevator up to ur apartment ever again…N I felt for the first time today I really got my boy back”. Am I advocating that there be no policy? Absolutely not, I just think that we need to recognize that there are positive implications of the use of these tools and work to educate everyone of all sides. When our district is worried about drug and alcohol use by students, we do not simply prohibit likenesses of drugs & alcohol in school and have punitive actions, we educate on the risks of drug and alcohol use outside of school. I would love to see this situation proactively handled. Perhaps the creation of a student group like SADD that can not only peer-educate students about appropriate uses of the Internet but provide information for parents as well would be a more positive step.
In the spirit of education, I wanted to share with you some information for parents regarding internet safety that I have collected.
I hope that you will take some time to share some of these resources within the district. I would be happy to offer some informational sessions for parents. I think that dialogue around this issue is so important
Thanks in advance for your time
if you have made it this far, PLEASE leave me some comments with your thoughts