Thursday, June 12, 2008

This school is missing the point of education

In NJ, a middle school has blocked Wikipedia from all school computers because it can be edited by anybody and contains inaccuracies. I wonder if they burned all their copies of Encyclopedia Britannica when a 12 year boy found significant errors in it?

Shouldn’t the school be teaching the kids how to use online sources, instead of blocking them outright? Wikipedia probably shouldn’t be a primary source for a middle school student anyway. However, it is great for providing an overview on just about any topic imaginable, and most articles are annotated with links to the primary sources. Instead of blocking the site, the school should be requiring the kids to either create a new entry, or contribute to the usefulness of Wikipedia by improving an existing entry. That would be educating. Is that too much to ask?

Internet Filters

We've already talked about establishing family rules about internet use, and teaching your children the basics of internet safety. Using an internet filter is an additional step many families take to add a layer of safety that could be a critical barrier between your children and the dark side of the internet.

Two types of parental controls that parents often implement as a part of their overall internet safety plan are controls provided by your service provider and blocking software.

High speed Internet providers usually have free or low cost parental control features that parents can use to monitor websites, filter e-mails, and limit the distribution of other online content. Some parents purchase additional blocking software, which has such added features as the ability to monitor or block chats, peer-to-peer interactions, and instant messaging, which according the the FBI, is one of the top places sexual predators use to locate vulnerable children online. Some of them also offer remote reporting, such as alerts and log reports sent to email or cell phone, as well as history reporting, and logging of security violations.

If your household has more than one computer, and they are networked, or if you have a fast Internet connection, you may want to consider using a router-based filter. A router is a piece of equipment that connects your computers to the Internet and to each other. Some routers offer an ability to filter content that affects all computers in your network. This method is harder to bypass, but it tends to be pricier, since you have to purchase the router, and pay an annual fee to subscribe.

Again, don't rely on the technology to do your parenting for you. According to the FBI's Parent's Guide to Internet Safety, "you should always maintain access to your child's online accounts and randomly check his or her email." Also be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Postal Service.

Lest I leave you with a feeling of dread regarding your children and the internet, keep in mind that there is a lot of family-friendly content out there. Todays-Learners has a good little family-friendly electronic medial guide that will help you and your family keep the fun in your online experiences.