Web Safety vs. Web Literacy

May 23, 2006 at 2:08 pm 1 comment

Arriving in my inbox via the school's mailing list:

"CAUGHT IN THE WEB?
DON'T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOUR KIDS!
Attend a Community Forum in the Community Room….  Do you know what MYSPACE, FACEBOOK or XANGA are? Your children do! But do our children know what can come back to haunt them? Do you have concerns/questions about your children's online safety, privacy and security? Come to this community forum and learn how to address these issues. " (funny, the email didn't contain hyperlinks.  I guess you had to attend to get those.)

Interested, but unable to attend, I requested more information and posed the questions:
"Further, are there plans for incorporating discussion of this topic into the "normal" curriculum?  Are we discussing not only the dangers, but the benefits of online information resources, and evolving goals of information, or transmedia, literacy?" 

The response?
"We do teach students of the benefits of using the internet for research.  We have not started educating them on what we presented to parents.  The speaker recommended starting with parents."

I find it interesting how this is presented, in a sensationalistic way.  In my opinion, this should be part of the normal curriculum, discussed at the same time 'don't talk to strangers' is discussed.

As it turns out, the speaker was a police officer who is employed through a partnership between the police department and the school district…which is cool…just interesting it wasn't a school IT resource.  Though the MySpace horror stories keep rolling in.

So: Parents who don't get it, though their kids do, are introduced to the power of the web in a scary negative fashion, their kids are not counciled on safe practices, and neither group is introduced to new and useful capabilities of our information environment.

From my point of view, at least in the elementary schools, the use of the Internet for research is suggested, but not supported or well understood.  For example, a teacher recently mandated referencing web sites as

www.ftc.gov

instead of

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2006/05/socialnetworking.htm

This annoyed me to no end – akin to referencing a journal article with no volume, year, or page number – you can't refer to information resources this way!  Of course this becomes complicated as today's teachers were students when style guides didn't consider URLs.  Do they now? They should.

And of course the typical suggestion for Internet use comes to our kids as, "you can use Encyclopedias, Books, Magazines, and the Internet for your research." 

With regard to Safety on the Web, articles that discuss the same social networking issue:

http://www.pleasestoptherollercoaster.com/articles/MySpace.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB113400562217716935.html?mod=technology_featured_stories_hs

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_50/b3963001.htm

What's interesting is that stuff kids post today will be 'findable' (potentially) hundreds of years from now, while no one will ever ever ever find that paper note passed around in health class twenty years ago.  Background searches are common now.  I'm sure that involves a Google search.  How might that affect future employment?

On the other hand, an online persona can be a good thing.  I read an article about a guy who was a guild-leader in an online multiplayer game.  The potential employer knew that was a big deal, involved a lot of organizational and leadership skill, and this gave him the edge.  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.04/learn.html.

This topic is fascinating; one of many intersection of Society and The Network.

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Entry filed under: feed my pet brain, information literacy.

More from Morville’s Ambient Findability Plagiarism and Aggregation

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