Children do best when parents and teachers work together. Just as the adults in a child’s life should align their expectations around homework and classroom behavior, parents and schools should coordinate their approaches to Internet safety. Doing so sends a clear and consistent message to children about the importance of using this powerful tool safely and wisely.
So how can you as a parent learn about Internet use policies and procedures at your child’s school? Just ask. Your school technology coordinator or your child’s teacher should be able to answer the following questions.
1. Do you have a written Internet use policy?
Most schools have a policy that spells out what is and is not considered acceptable use of the Internet. Ideally, both you and your child will be required to sign this document before your child is allowed to go online at school. The Internet use policy shows students that they’re responsible for their behavior online and, just as important, it makes students and parents aware of the potential pitfalls as well as the benefits of using the Internet.
2. What is the punishment for violating the Internet use policy?
Your school may revoke a student’s Internet privileges for breaking the rules. If this is the case, find out how students who lose online access while at school will keep up with any work that’s dependent on using the Internet.
3. Do you use filters to block inappropriate online content?
While content filters aren’t fail-safe, they can be a useful first line of defense against objectionable material and inappropriate sites. If you’re considering using an Internet filter at home, you might ask your child’s teacher or school technology coordinator to recommend one that will meet your needs. Just remember that the best filter is the one between your child’s ears. So be sure to teach him how to use the Internet safely and wisely.
4. How do you teach students to protect their privacy online?
Teachers should make sure students do not visit sites that require them to reveal personal information, such as their last name and city of residence.
5. How closely are students monitored while using the Internet at school?
Are students allowed to go online without a teacher or other adult present? When a teacher is in the room, how does he supervise students’ online activity? A teacher should be nearby at all times and regularly checking the students’ computer screens.
6. How do you help students evaluate the credibility of websites?
As soon as students are old enough to use the Internet for research, they should learn that some sites are more trustworthy than others. How does your school teach students to recognize hidden agendas, sloppy reporting, and inaccurate information online? At the very least, students should be encouraged to cross-reference their search results when they can’t verify that the content was created by a credible source.
7. How does your school address the issue of plagiarism with students?
The Internet makes it very easy to download copyrighted material and cut and paste other people’s work. Students should be taught that this is plagiarism and that claiming someone else’s material as your own is both ethically and legally wrong. Find out how your school monitors its students’ work for evidence of plagiarism. Learn what the punishment is for plagiarism.
8. Can you recommend a list of safe, kid-friendly research and educational sites?
Teachers often collect lists of student-safe websites that children can use for research and homework help. Ask for this list and bookmark these sites at home so that the next time your child needs to do a project on ancient civilizations, volcanoes, or wolves, you’ll be sure to find age-appropriate material.
9. What is your school’s policy on cyberbullying?
The issue of harassing others through social media has attracted a lot of attention lately and some states have responded by passing laws requiring schools to institute cyberbullying policies. Learn whether yours has by typing “cyberbullying law” and the name of your state into an online search engine. Regardless, your school should have measures in place to educate students about the issue of cyberbullying and to promote a safe and respectful school climate. Ideally, your school will also specify how it investigates claims of cyberbullying and how cyberbullies will be disciplined.