[cd] FW: Online Safety: Striking A Balance
Fri, 31 Aug 2001 15:27:42 -0600
From: eChalk Reports
Sent: 8/29/01 8:32 AM
Subject: Online Safety: Striking A Balance
Vol. 1, No. 6 August 29, 2001
eChalk Reports <http://www.echalk.com/newsletter/images/logo.gif>
Online Safety: Striking A Balance
ON THE ONE HAND...
We've all see it in the news: online predators trolling for young
victims; innocent Web surfers having their identities stolen; personal
information culled and distributed; and pornographic images popping up
unexpectedly or found readily by minors. You'd think the Web was a
virtual Sodom and Gomorrah. As an educator in today's digital age, you
need to understand the liabilities that you and your school face
whenever: electronic mail is sent from school computers, school members
receive unsolicited email (think "hostile work environment"), and
sensitive personal information is inadvertently published on school Web
sites. While any of these could bring lawsuits to your school, student
safety is, of course, of paramount concern. Consider these statistics
published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
* One in four regular Internet users younger than 17 was exposed
to unwanted sexually oriented pictures on-line during the past year.
* One in five youths receive an on-line sexual solicitation or
approach during the past year.
* One in 17 was threatened or harassed on-line during the past
* One in 33 received an aggressive sexual solicitation on-line
involving offline contact or a request for offline contact during the
ON THE OTHER HAND...
According to a study by the University of California, Irvine and the
University of Minnesota ("Internet Use By Teachers," Henry Jay Becker,
1999), there is a direct correlation between the use of technology and
achievement in the classroom. Email, in particular, proved to be a
valuable tool in the learning environment. In fact, "Across almost all
subject-areas, electronic mail was used more by high-achieving classes
than by low-achieving classes." In the report, fully 87% of teachers
reported believing that having a computer with email was "valuable" or
"essential." So how do you strike a balance between safety and access?
There are ways to limit your liabilities while still providing critical
LIMITING YOUR LIABILITY
Your school or district may be liable for use -- or abuse -- of whatever
online communication system has been put in place -- whether it's been
set up in-house, outsourced, or it's use of "free" online services. Even
if your district doesn't receive federal funding for technology, it
greatly behooves any superintendent or tech director to at least:
Adopt an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that addresses Internet safety in a
meaningful and workable way. For questions about liability, consult your
school counsel. For more information, visit the Northwest Educational
Technology Consortium <http://www.netc.org/tech_plans/aup.html> which
features helpful guidelines and sample AUPs.
Know the Full Capabilities of Your Filtering or Blocking Software -- and
recognize that it probably doesn't work quite as well as you would like
it to. Current consensus is that these mechanisms are far from perfect,
and are apt to block valuable research sites capriciously. Try to find
software or services that will allow the most flexibility and
customization. Regardless, your district must implement filtering or
blocking as per CIPA, and certify by October 28, 2001 that it has taken
steps toward <http://www.echalk.com/erate_cipa.html> CIPA compliance in
order to receive federal funding like E-rate or ESEA. For some good
information about filtering and blocking software and services, visit
this <http://www.electronic-school.com/0198f1.html> Electronic School
Involve the Community; for those schools depending on E-rate or ESEA
funding for technology, they must publicize and hold at least one public
meeting to discuss Internet safety (per CIPA requirements) in order to
certify compliance and protect their funding. In general, it's a good
idea for the community to be involved with issues like Internet safety
because students use computers before, during, and after school.
Combining the resources of both the school and the parents makes sense
from an Internet safety standpoint.
The Internet has far too much to offer our students for us to
indiscriminately block their access to it. And online communication --
email in particular -- is far too useful a collaboration tool in this
modern age for us to deny its use for our students. The trick is to find
solutions that help balance safety and substance.
Below, you'll find some useful, practical information on email safety
and what to do if you encounter criminal activities via the Internet in
your school. By the way, thanks to many of you for your encouraging
feedback and excellent suggestions.
President & Co-Founder
Email Dos and Don'ts
DO: Install an anti-virus program on desktop computers to prevent
viruses from spreading via floppy disks.
DO: Make sure your communication platform automatically scans incoming
email for viruses.
DO: Consider a communication system whereby school- or district-wide
email can be "closed down" so that students can only send and receive
email from within the school community.
DO: Look at the file extension of the attachment: if it ends in: .pif,
.lnk, .com, .bat, .doc, or .exe, then it may be a virus.
DON'T: Open a file attachment if you have any doubt about whether it is
a virus. Ask the sender to verify the email's legitimacy.
DON'T: Automatically think it's okay to set up all your students with a
free, Web-based email account. Not only are many of these companies
sharing and/or selling user information, but they are also letting a
good deal of porn-related spam to get through unsolicited.
What to Do If Someone is Soliciting Students Online
You should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement
agency, the FBI, and/or the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children. Also, turn the computer off in order to preserve any evidence
for future law enforcement use. You should not attempt to copy any
images or text found, unless advised to do so by the law enforcement
What to Do If You Suspect Identity Theft
Again, you should contact your local law enforcement agency, as well as
your credit card companies, credit reporting bureaus, banks and
creditors. To submit a report to the FTC, you can use their Identity
Theft Complaint Form
<https://rn.ftc.gov/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01> . You can also
forward unsolicited commercial email (or spam) directly to the
Commission using this email address firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> .
What to Do If You Suspect Fraud or Misuse on the Internet
The Federal Trade Commission enforces a variety of consumer protection
laws and is maintaining a database of telemarketing, identity theft, and
other fraud-relating complaints for use by civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies worldwide. While the FTC does not resolve
individual consumer problems, your complaint helps them investigate
fraud and can lead to law enforcement action. Visit their Consumer
Sentinel <http://www.consumer.gov/sentinel/> page for more information.
The FBI's "Parent's Guide to Internet Safety"
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Test your younger students' Internet safety savvy
ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION:
eChalk Reports is distributed electronically by eChalk, a leading
Web-based communication service provider for K-12 schools. Topics
addressed are presented with the purpose of bringing greater clarity,
focus, and balance to some of the current and growing trends in
education technology. If you have any questions about this newsletter or
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eChalk is the leading provider of integrated, Web-based communication
platforms for K-12 schools and districts. eChalk offers each school its
own secure, affordable, easy-to-use and entirely advertising-free
network, which includes email, school directory, online classrooms, file
storage, calendaring, Web publishing tools, and ongoing support. As an
Application Service Provider (ASP), eChalk leverages schools' existing
technology infrastructure and requires no new hardware, software or
technical staff time. The company's mission is to enhance the
educational process by providing highly effective communication and
collaboration tools to students, teachers, parents, and administrators.
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