The FTC appears ill-equipped to guard students’ electronic privacy; schools need more broadband capacity to realize the benefits of technology, a recent report argues; and a new tablet from Microsoft aims to compete with the iPad where it’s most vulnerable, which is content creation: These are among the top educational technology stories in the July/August edition of eSchool News.
Our July/August edition is now available in digital format on our website. You can browse the full publication here, or click on any of the headlines below to read these highlights:
Students who send explicit photos on their cell phones wouldn’t have to be branded as sex offenders, if a new curriculum developed by Yahoo! Inc. catches on.
Technology offenses such as cyber bulling and sexting can carry serious emotional and legal consequences. In many states, the laws haven’t kept up with technology, and students who send or receive explicit photos of themselves or others can be charged with trafficking in child pornography.
Finding the right balance between keeping students safe and letting them explore their world digitally was the focus of an April 21 session during the National School Boards Association’s 72nd annual conference, in which NSBA senior staff attorney Sonja Trainor gave advice on how school districts can open their doors to technology without getting sued.
Cracking down on cyber bullying or harassment, searching students’ cell phones or laptops, and filtering school internet access are some of the areas where educators can get into trouble if they don’t know their proper legal boundaries, Trainor said. Here’s what she had to say about each of these areas.
Indiana lawmakers are moving cautiously in trying to curb the practice of teens sending racy photos or videos of minors by cell phones, reports the Associated Press. Many state lawmakers want to do something about so-called teen “sexting”—the practice of teens sending nude or sexually explicit photos or videos of minors by cell phone. But an interim study committee that looked at the issue Aug. 25 has not decided what it should recommend to the full General Assembly. State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, said lawmakers are trying to walk a fine line between doing nothing on one had to legislating morality on the other. “It’s a national concern,” said Lawson, chairwoman of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee. “Parents are concerned, schools are concerned. My job is to figure out what we should do here.” Many states are grappling with the issue in the fast-changing world of social networking and cyberspace. This year, at least 16 states have introduced or are considering bills or resolutions aimed at sexting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In general, the legislation is aimed at educating youth about the risks of sexting, deterring them from the practice and imposing penalties for taking part in the activity. The Indiana Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would make it a separate delinquent act for those under age 18 to disseminate any material that depicts nudity or sexual conduct of minors. But there was confusion over the bill, and the issue was punted to the study committee…
A federal online safety task force issued a report June 4, noting that the real world and the online lives of today’s students are overlapping. Although internet safety education is essential, the report says, scare tactics do little to influence the behavior of children and teenagers, who spend a large part of their lives on social networking sites, text messaging, and using other tech-based forms of communication.
Instead, the Online Safety and Technology Working Group (OSTWG), created by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said that proper education about appropriate online behavior and digital media consumption can help children evaluate potential online risks. The group suggested that the government “promote nationwide education in digital citizenship and media literacy as the cornerstone of internet safety.”
Recommendations include creating a web-based clearinghouse of online safety education research, avoiding scare tactics, promoting digital citizenship at all grade levels, establishing industry best practices for effective internet safety education programs, and looking to young people as experts in the online and digital media arenas by involving them in risk-prevention education.…Read More
A Pennsylvania school district that was at the center of a highly publicized “sexting” case was sued May 20 by a teenager who claims her principal confiscated her cell phone, found nude images she had taken of herself, and turned it over to prosecutors.
Tunkhannock Area High School Principal Gregory Ellsworth illegally searched the 17-year-old’s phone in January 2009, even though she intended the racy photos to be “seen only herself and, perhaps, her long-time boyfriend,” according to the federal lawsuit.
It says the principal gave the phone to George Skumanick Jr., at the time the Wyoming County district attorney, who threatened to file felony child pornography charges against the girl unless she took a class on sexual violence.…Read More
In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cell phone or computer—known as “sexting”—have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex-offender registry for decades to come. But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with the phenomenon, reports the New York Times. Last year, Nebraska, Utah, and Vermont changed their laws to reduce penalties for teenagers who engage in such activities, and this year, according to the National Council on State Legislatures, 14 more states are considering legislation that would treat young people who engage in sexting differently from adult pornographers and sexual predators. And on March 17, the first federal appellate opinion in a sexting caserecognized that a prosecutor had gone too far in trying to enforce adult moral standards. “There’s a lot of confusion about how to regulate cell phones and sex and 16-year-olds,” said Amy Adler, a law professor at New York University. “We’re at this cultural shift, not only because of the technology, but because of what’s happening in terms of the representation of teen sexuality.”
In the first federal appeals court opinion dealing with “sexting”—the transmission of sexually explicit photographs by cell phone—a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled March 17 that parents could block the prosecution of their children on child pornography charges for appearing in photographs found on some classmates’ phones, reports the New York Times. “It does not resolve all of the constitutional issues implicated in sexting prosecutions, but it’s a terrific start for civil liberties,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who represented the parents. The case, Miller v. Mitchell, began in 2008 when school officials in Tunkhannock, Pa., discovered seminude and nude photographs of some female students on other students’ cell phones. The officials confiscated the phones and turned them over to the county district attorney’s office. The district attorney at the time, George Skumanick Jr., said that students possessing “inappropriate images of minors” could be prosecuted for possession or distribution of child pornography, and he sent letters to the parents of the students with the phones—and the parents of students who appeared in the photographs—threatening to prosecute any student who did not participate in an after-school “education program.” Three families whose daughters were in the photographs refused to participate and instead filed suit to block the charges…
Despite the growth in internet safety education over the past year, one alarming trend continued to get worse: “sexting,” or the act of sending explicit photos or text messages via cell phones or the web.
More than a quarter of young people ages 14 to 24 say they’ve been involved in some form of sexting, according to an Associated Press-MTV poll released in early December. A separate poll from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that 15 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 have received “sext” messages.
While the exchange of nude images mostly takes place among romantic partners or potential partners of the same age, these images often are forwarded to non-partners or people in different age groups–with sometimes tragic results.…Read More