Online Safety: Fear of preditors or rules to support freedom of expression!

Being comfortable with technology, I have always been a proponent of teaching and encouraging an online experience.  It was only through scare sessions by the county prosecuter that I heard parents gasp at the possible dangers that their children might encounter while online.  These were parents who possibly also feared the internet due to lack of knowledge and comfort in using a computer.

My reasons for promoting Online Safety was to educate parents into talking with their kids and teaching them the best way possible to be online and be secure about that experience.  Anne Collier, creator of NetFamilyNews.org, states a compelling argument to changing the way we approach online safety.  See her blog and news article at http://www.netfamilynews.org/2009/04/online-safety-means-not-end.html.

Maybe the wave of ‘Predator Dangers…’ are slowing down due to the large scale scare campaign set forth by law enforcement, teachers, technology supporters and concerned parents. Kids are all too aware of the issues of meeting with strangers they talk to online.  As can be seen by the prominent role of social network sites in the US’s latest presidential election (see just-released Pew/Internet research) – it has clearly become an important tool of participatory democracy and, as such, we need to embrace the social media our children have at their disposal.

The NetFamily News article talks about the need to include social media as a part of citizenship and media literacy education in school (to remain relevant to social media’s most fluent practitioners – teens – schools cannot afford to discourage or block social media’s use).  She speaks about how our Online Safety education should be meaningful to kids in school and not just about banning social media sites.  Online Safety discussions should be about a healthy participation in social media and the freedom of expression and civic engagement through social technologies and media. She quotes,

“Digital citizenship is the new online safety!”

Educator and author Will Richardson says educators should encourage students to create, navigate, and grow the powerful, individualized networks of learning on the Web and helping them do this effectively, ethically, and safely.

Should the new dinner table discussions now bring up online media, in addition to the newspaper and TV news and encourage our children to talk about what they have read or posted on the web?  In many ways they are writers and publishers in their own right.

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