Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Internet and the Honor Code

Shannon Frederick, our Middle School Technology Coordinator, and I put this piece together for the middle school newsletter.

Children start using the Internet very early these days. The debate between pros and cons of Internet usage could be argued all day long, but the truth is preteens and teens can’t get enough. In fact, at any given minute during a normal day, over one billion people can be on the Internet. So, how can we be aware of what our children are doing, help them navigate the internet with honor and integrity, and keep them safe?

Students are using the Internet in a myriad of ways. They post photos of themselves and friends, along with information about themselves, such as hobbies, afterschool activities, and likes/dislikes on social networking sites. Students complete research for everything from class assignments and projects to volunteer opportunities to “cheats” for a video game to help them reach the next level. They are instant messaging each other, playing online games, sending emails, watching videos, exploring a “cyberworld,” listening to music, taking part in chat rooms, and utilizing their cell phones for texting, picture taking, or internet access. The Internet is part of their educational and personal world.

As parents and educators, we have to decide how much time is spent and where that time is spent depending on their developmental stage. An article and handout is on the Calvert’s Technology blog to help parents make the decisions that are best for them. However, whether students are accessing the Internet at Calvert or at home, we try to encourage them to keep a few pieces of information in mind to make healthy and educated choices while “surfing the net.”

All of the new information media, social networking, and electronic communication of our world necessitates that we as a school teach our students how to navigate through the temptations of the Internet. Three questions will help safely guide them:

o Is it safe?

o Is it honest?

o Is it kind?

If the answer to any of these three questions is “no,” students need to reexamine their decision to interact with, use, or pass on that information. Honest, safe, and kind are different ways of phrasing the ideas in our Honor Code: Honesty, Respect (kind), and Responsibility (safe). We want to make sure our students are asking these questions within the context of the Honor Code at school, but they are great questions for you to ask at home as well.

We hope you will take some time at home to determine your family’s guidelines for the Internet and what role the three important questions above can play at home to help children navigate the web.

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