Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Concerns about student info on the web

Schools and parents around the country are becoming concerned about the information that students are posting on web sites such as MySpace.com. The recent documentaries by NBC Dateline “To Catch a Predator III” and “Why parents must mind MySpace” have contributed to this concern .

Our district recently had a presentation about the iSafe program which included information about MySpace.com and the information that our students were putting online. Full names, age, grade, school, interests such as sports and activities, etc. Even photos. One example was a photo of a girl in her volleyball uniform with number and school prominently displayed. A lot of information for a predator to be able to use to make initial contact with the student.

This presentation raised the level of concern of our staff members, many of whom are parents of teens.

But what about other information that is being placed on the web about our students?

One of the articles recently highlighted in the eSchoolNews.com“Around the Web” section was about a music teacher using podcasting in an elementary music class. Music teacher adds podcasting to curriculum is a very interesting article and it should attract a lot of readers interested in the use of podcasting in education.

What concerns me is that the online article includes a photograph of the teacher and two elementary students with full names and ages. Earlier in the article the elementary school is identified.

What about our school web sites that have photos of athletes in uniform with their name, grade and position. The school and city, often with phone numbers, are included on the home page of the site. Many schools honor the student of the month with a full “head and shoulders” photo along with the full name and grade.

Is the information that is being posted on MySpace.com really that dangerous? Are our newspapers and school sites just as bad as MySpace.com? Or even worse, because the newspapers and schools are putting the information out about our students where the students themselves are responsible for what they put out on MySpace.com?

There have been stories about the number of people who have been targeted by predators because of information that was found on MySpace.com. What will happen when a student is abducted or molested because of information found on a school web site?

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