In an earlier blog post (Back in the saddle again) I wrote about International School Bangkok’s MS Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). We had looked at the policies by division and picked out parts of them that we found interesting or significant. There were two parts of the MS AUP that struck me. The AUP states:
Online safety is a personal responsibility. It is important that students are aware of the implications of their actions online, both to themselves and to others. The actions students take in social networking areas like MySpace, Facebook, or others, can impact their university applications, job searches, and overall reputation. It can also provide sensitive information to online predators.
I asked in my original post, whose job is it to teach kids this ‘responsibility? Where do they learn what that responsible behavior is supposed to look like? The AUP also goes on to make a statement about cyberbullying:
Cyber-bullying is not tolerated at ISB. ISB becomes involved when student’s online activities impact at-school life and community. In other words, if the actions of students outside of school have an effect on students feeling unsafe or uncomfortable at school, then ISB administration will act and remedy this. Additionally, if members of ISB staff or its community are targeted, then the school administration will get involved.
This is a strong, and I think necessary statement. I think being an International School we have a bit more flexibility when it comes to laws around liabilities and such. I’m not sure how this would look in other countries. I do think, however, that with anything, there is some subjectivity involved. In reading a recent article about a student who was penalized for publishing derogatory statements about school administration on her personal blog from home, I found myself concerned with where our lines are drawn. Another article shared how a school in California responded to a group of students who started a ‘hate group’ on Facebook about another student. Laws are changing as people become aware of the potential effects of irresponsible Internet use.
In this day and age, I think as a school we are doing students a serious disservice if we are not teaching them about online safety, responsibility online, and ethical Internet use. Ideally, kids would be getting these digital literacy skills from home (and many are I’m sure). However, with the rate of change and the speed at which information is evolving, I believe educational institutions need to shoulder much of the burden for helping students to understand their digital world. Realistically, many parents are ill equipped to support and guide their children because they themselves lack the skills and information. Maybe helping parents to learn and understand digital literacy is also something that schools should be considering.
Within an educational institution, whose job is it to make sure this information is being taught to students? I don’t know if I have the answer to that…my hope is that it’s everyone’s responsibility to be teaching these skills. Yet my worry is that if it’s everyone’s job, then who is held accountable to ensure it is happening? Where are the standards and benchmarks in our curriculum for these digital literacy skills? As a counselor, I know I feel responsible for ensuring my students are gaining the skills required to be successful in life. In this life, they need to be equipped to navigate the digital world. So, I guess it’s my job too.