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Sunday, September 7, 2014

These Digital Times

Dear Eagle Families:

Welcome to the ECMS Eagle Angle Blog.  This blog is my opportunity, as principal, to communicate with parents about issues that concern those of us who are raising and educating young people.  I was very faithful about blogging year before last.  I stopped as I really did not perceive that people were interested.  However, several parents have requested that I start blogging again.  I am more than happy to do so!!!

I feel so fortunate to work in the Catalina Foothills School District.  We are privileged to have the visionary leadership and parental support to offer students the most innovative approaches to education.  Our implementation of 21st Century Skills and Deeper Learning Proficiencies is yielding amazing results among our students. They are making I-movies, digital stories,  and using google docs.  Fitness Gram is an app they can use to track their fitness in PE.   Every year, technology enriches the content students are learning. A lesson utilizing technology standards and tools  is richer and can engage students at a deep level in all content areas, thus contributing to "deeper learning." Technology in education is truly revolutionizing both teaching and learning.

There are caveats when traveling these new and exciting roads.  I am a digital immigrant.  I admit it.  I was in my 30's when I became aware of the implications of the internet on my chosen profession.  A student taught me how to turn on my first computer.  And, even though I have devoted a lot of time to learning about technology, I was not born into the digital age.  If you remember a typewriter and correction tape, chances are you are a digital immigrant like me.  I am always more careful with things that I do not fully understand.

Digital natives, of course, were born into the age of computers. They play on computers many times before they can read.  The digital natives who are our students/children navigate the worldwide web in the security and comfort of their homes sometimes without a thought that they are putting themselves  at risk for cyberbullying and internet predators.  Our children may be corresponding with people they do not know in real time, people who are being dishonest about who they are.   These are all very frightening possibilities to educators and parents.

At school, we have technology policies and procedures which we implement and monitor with fidelity to ensure student safety.  Our goal is to teach internet safety habits and for those habits to transfer to when students are away from the school setting. At home and in other settings,  using the internet and the worldwide web safely requires discernment and education.  I also want to encourage parents to monitor your child's online activity.   Things can and do go wrong for kids on the internet.   It is important to be aware. Prevention through education is key.  Here is a cautionary list, not made to scare anyone, but to raise awareness. 


 1.  Youtube challenges are not new.  These "challenges" are aimed at young people, modeling and encouraging the performance of dangerous stunts.  These "challenge" activities can cause injury or worse. From eating caustic cinnamon to burning oneself with ice and salt, it is too bad that Youtube allows these videos as they put young people at risk.

2.  KiK Messenger. Kik is a mini social network. Similar to iChat or Google Chat, users can talk to multiple people, upload pics and files and even send built-in greeting cards or sketched pictures. Like Facebook or Twitter, it's impossible to verify someone's identity through the worldwide web, thus making our kids vulnerable.

3.  SnapChat. This iPhone app allows users to send photos that will "self-destruct" within a few seconds. This means that the user can send a potentially damaging picture to a friend or someone else, and it won't stay on the recipient's phone.  Talk to your child about the dangers of sending risky photos.

4.  iFunny. The app lets users create comic strips using photos and captions, and post or send them to friends.  This app is rated for ages 17 and over. Once created, the comic strip can make its way to social networks, or it can be saved to phones and computers by other users. This can expose students to humor and behavior that is not age appropriate.

5.  Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms.  This service also makes it easy to hide your identify and to create "fake" accounts.  Instagram can be a platform for bullying.

Additional Caveats
Many of these sites require the user to be age 13 or older.  I would venture to say that this is not well monitored and impossible to regulate.   Parental Controls in Windows Media Center can help you set limits on your kids' computer time as well as limiting the programs they can access and games they can use.

What does "friend" mean on the worldwide web?
 Who are your child's friends on Facebook and other apps?  Is it possible for a 12 year old to have 1,000 friends?   Accepting cyber friendship requests for someone you do not know in real time is dangerous.  People are often not who they say they are.  Look at your student's list of friends and ask questions.

What do I do if my child is harassed or bullied online?
Call law enforcement.  Make a report even if you do not know who is harassing or bullying your child.

Steps to Take to Have Content Removed from Google and Instagram
If you come across content that violates your family's privacy on Google, here is a the website to request content removal.

Here is Instagram's Privacy and Safety Center Site:

My hope is to help parents better monitor their child's activity in cyberspace.  And, most importantly, to empower digital natives and immigrants to keep themselves safe on the internet.  Knowledge is power.  Let's work together to keep kids safe for years to come.  The internet is here to stay.  Let's teach kids to use it wisely and to protect themselves and their families.

Please feel free to email me with any concerns that come up as a result of my blog.



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