Parents are concerned about their children’s ability to see sexually explicit and violent images on the internet through classroom or media center computers. As a result, schools have installed, or are thinking of adding, filtering software onto individual computers or computer networks.
However, filters are not sufficient. Besides being controversial, they do not teach children how to use computers responsibly. A better solutioneither as a complement to filters or as a replacement for themis to create and enforce an “acceptable use policy.”
Here are five keys to supporting that policy:
1. Explain the policy. Do more than just have students sign the policy at the start of the school year. Hold a discussion about the expectations it places on themand why.
2. Give students carefully crafted online assignments. Letting students randomly surf the internet on school time does little to teach them about using the internet and may indirectly encourage irresponsible searching.
3. Educate colleagues to use search engines properly. Teachers beginning to use the web will make as many searching mistakes as students, so encourage them to experiment outside of the classroom. Also, show teachers how to get out of embarrassing situations gracefully if they mistakenly go to an improper site while leading a classroom exercise.
4. Place computers carefully in the classroom. Give students easy sight lines to computers so they can work in groupsand so the teacher can see all monitors at all times. Don’t allow unsupervised use unless students prove their maturity.
5. Open the classroom to parents. To allay fears, encourage parents to come to class and see how computers are being used.