Digital Duty of Care

It is the job of job parents and teachers to teach cyber safety skills to children.

Without these skills, Cyberland is a risky place with some dangerous people hiding behind false identities lurking in the shadows.

As a father with young kids, I feel very sensitive to the dangers present in seemingly innocuous places. When my young kids ask me to authorize their membership application of a game website, I take the time to explain the potential dangers, before refusing! They have more than enough games pre-loaded to keep them (safely) entertained!

Recently CoETaIL classmate Stacy Stephens posed a question that goes to the heart of this topic: “How can parents can let their kids sit alone with a laptop in their bedrooms, online and unsupervised?”

This is especially negligent when we remember that teenage minds are incredibly susceptible to manipulation & negative influence. At precisely the time in their lives when parents should be guiding their kids through the digital minefield, they are stepping back and hoping for the best! I recognize the vast input of time and effort this requires, but that’s what parenting is about!

Moral education is labor-intensive but essential for the development of young adult minds. Digital citizenship must be taught, not learned through bitter experience(s)!

How many parents are currently allowing their kids unlimited, unrestricted, uncensored, unguided access to the world-wide-web?

Can we really believe their young impressionable minds will be safe in the digital hands of strangers?

After Stacy highlighted this issue, I went home and disabled internet access on my kids’ iPod!

It is, after all, the perfect Trojan Horse… a seemingly benign Pandora’s-box filled with powerful web-surfing, video viewing/creation tools…just like a laptop…

Our kids could be groomed by predators when we assume they’re playing Angry Birds! I wonder how many multi-game player “kids” are actually adults in disguise?

If we aren’t watching, maybe someone dangerous is!

I’ll only let my kids use these features under adult supervision from now on!

After disabling the iPod’s  wifi I discovered that knowledge is power…my ten year old son secretly changed the passcode to the home screen and locked me out! Cyber Revenge! I discovered this a long way from home on a cycle ride along the Yammuna river here in Delhi. I had planned  to use the Brushes app on the iPod to draw the scenery along the riverbank.I usually take watercolors and a sketchbook, but I’d left them at home so I could develop my Cyber-drawing skills .     [    hyperlink here ...I have been using a school-loaned iPad to draw for the past few months .This has been a wonderful experience......] So I was twenty miles from home with a locked device and no way to draw on my day off! My cellphone battery was flat so I couldn’t call home to ask for the new pass-code! It taught me a harsh lesson about addictive behaviors and young, impressionable minds…

Teachers have a very important part to play too – throughout the curriculum. However, I know that as a cohort of teachers at AES, there is a wide range of digital technology ability and knowledge about safety online. So students are currently in the driving seat in some classes – essentially teaching the teachers! There should be regular Inservice Day workshops to educate us all to the same level; otherwise how can we protect our charges?

“Practice makes perfect” is an old adage which is only true if you are practicing the correct techniques and protocols. Ineffective safety precautions will lead students into a false sense of security. So it is essential that we have the right training to ensure that we are imparting the best knowledge.

In a similar way to our school’s First Response Team (for emergency first aid & evacuation on campus), we should have a well-trained Cybersafety Team.

It needs to be cross-curricular with at least one member per subject area…

Here’s a link to a Googledoc which I made in collaboration with Coetail classmates Nandita Tiwari, Elizabeth Halina & Una Ahuja. It was an enlightening Cyber safety project  about Unwanted Contact…. .. this is a work in progress which I intend to develop & use as the basis for my final project over the next week or so…

all photographs courtesy Flickr Creative Commons..double click on each image to visit site.

This entry was posted in Art Education, Critical Thinking, Cross-curricular Collaboration, Design Education, Home Learning, Peer Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Digital Duty of Care

  1. Avatar of Liz Liz says:

    It is great to read about a teacher who is also a parent who is taking responsibility in both roles for teaching about cyber safety. Someday your kids (and students) will be alone online. By supervising and teaching how to handle issues such as unwanted contact, cyber bullying, and proper use of the internet, you are providing both groups valuable lessons in how to behave appropriately online. These skills are also transferable to the “live” world. How to interact, how to speak to each other, how to handle situations when someone isn’t being nice, the rules are the same in the real and virtual world. However, in the digital world there is a permanent record and that can be shared with more people than you may want or realize. Good for you for taking charge, being aware, and helping your kids become cyber safe!

  2. Avatar of Monika Dewan Monika Dewan says:

    I agree with you, John that as a parent and as an educator, we have to keep our eyes open to ensure that our children do not get lost in Cyberspace. We are happy to allow them to be well versed with the latest ongoing digital devices, yet, we are very concerned about them staying safe in the cyberworld. It is ultmately in our hands as parents and educators to ensure they are safe and secure, rather endangered with Cyberbullying. Very well written blog, John.

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