Monitor On-line Activities to Ensure
With millions of web sites on the net, not
all are going to be educational. Some on-line activities could be downright dangerous.
Pointing students to the good sites and taking a few steps to keep them away from the bad
is worth the effort.
By Brad Ross
As more and more people turn to the
Internet as a major source for information, the net is quickly shifting from the
status of a "new" medium, to simply a medium.
But as kids use the net with increasing frequency,
teachers are presented with a number of challenges the worst of which is the ready
access children have to the evils of the world. Pornography, adult predators and other
unsavoury elements that we all agree have no place in the lives of children are extremely
difficult to control.
While parents can exert relative control over net usage
at home, many teachers are finding it to be a daunting task. You can tell a classroom full
of curious children that certain web sites or on-line activities, such as chat, are
banned, but of course that will simply pique curiosity and, suddenly theres that web
page you flagged as inappropriate.
No, trying to censor the World Wide Web is futile. What works
better is finding sites that are interactive and safe. Satiate curiosity with fun, safe
web sites that will distract inquiring minds from the desire to surf sites that are truly
garbage. The web is no place for sex ed.
Teacher Anna Beniuk Cooper
raised this serious issue with me via e-mail. She told me that her students desperately
want to chat on-line and asked if I had any advice. That evening, CNN ran a story about
the Internet and some of the work the FBI has been doing with respect to children and the
FBI Director Louis Freeh told a U.S. Senate subcommittee,
"Any contact with a voice on the Internet is unknown contact. You dont know who
youre speaking to because anybody can be anybody on the Internet."
Of course, that doesnt mean kids cant engage in
useful and fun activities with other children on-line. It just means that parents and
teachers need to be extremely vigilant when children log on.
"The best way to prevent unsuspecting children from
becoming victims of computer-savvy sexual predators is to teach them and their parents
(and teachers) safe Internet and on-line practices," Freeh said. Precisely.
Here, then, are four web sites that are safe, engaging and
resourceful for children, parents and teachers. There are thousands more, but these
provide good, safe starting points.
Children certainly like to talk. And what could be more fun, than
"talking" to someone halfway around the world? It can be educational,
interesting and enlightening. Yet, it can also be dangerous. Anyone can go on-line and
pose as a 13-year-old, for example. Its a sad state of affairs, but there are adults
who use the net to prey on children. Just as children are street-proofed about the
dangers of talking to strangers, the same rules must apply to the net. Chat Box
pulls out all the stops to ensure kids-only chat, but if you can, sit with a child while
they chat. Or at least relocate the computer to an area for easy monitoring.
Synonymous with healthy reading, Owl Magazine has recreated that
approach on-line with a rich web site both in content and its use of graphics. It
has links for children under eight, children over eight, as well as one for adults, called
Cyber Family. An overview of Owls CyberSurfer, a book for and about childrens
safety on the net, offers many useful tips and techniques for ensuring an enjoyable
time on-line. For the kids, a series of knock-knock jokes will mean giggles, not squirms
as they surf.
bookmarks or favourites becoming unmanageable? Mine, too. Its always nice to come
across a site that offers good information and a plethora of links to related sites. This
is one of them. Family-friendly sites, child safety on-line, links to missing children
organizations, education, hobbies, films and music. In short, some excellent resources on
net safety and many cool links for the kids.
Similar to Net Nanny and other web-filtering software products, Cyber
Patrol prohibits access to sites determined by you. It can also limit the amount of time
spent on-line and also features something called "ChatGard," which prevents
children from divulging real names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses while chatting.
Various versions are available, both for in-home and networked PCs. A monthly update also
wings its way to subscribers, noting new sites that it deems inappropriate for children
and, conversely, sites that have been verified as kid-friendly.
Brad Ross is associate editor of Professionally
Speaking and the Colleges web editor. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .