The media is full of examples of MySpace.com, Facebook and other social networking sites that present specific risks to students, their friends, and their families, and in the past year we have had several workshops for parents and community members. At the most recent workshop, hosted at the Washington Irving School in mid-March, a number of community members requested that we provide a follow-up session. In an effort to present the most up-to-date and relevant content, several staff members have working behind the scenes to put together a presentation and collection of resources that will be useful tools. Community members will hear more about an upcoming Internet safety presentation and panel in the next few weeks.
Last week, Jean O’Brien (technology integration specialist at Washington Irving) and I attended a presentation titled “Keeping Connected to Your Plugged-In Child: A Resource for Parents Dealing with Kids and Technology.” The keynote speaker was Parry Aftab, a national speaker and expert on this topic. One area of particular concern was cyberbullying and another was the pictures and information that students share online. Though there are safeguards and steps for reducing the online risks (i.e. turning off comments and ratings, making a profile private), there are still many users who are unaware of these simple practices or who choose not to use them.
Ms. Aftab also provided a number of positive examples of pre-teens and teens using the Internet and social networking sites in productive ways. Examples include developing websites aimed at stopping cyberbullying, as well as resoureces that provide peer tutoring and remediation. She also shared one of her websites as a resource for parents, students, and educators.