The potential and perils of our tech toys

As you likely know, I am a strong proponent of technology integration in our classrooms and across our schools.  Technology affords us a way to connect with different types of learners and engage students in ways that can appear magical.  Our young people are growing up in an educational environment that will become increasing more reliant upon technology and we need to make sure they have the skill set that will allow them to thrive in the digital classrooms of the future.  However, I’m not here to talk about the changing face of education; I would like to look at the changing face of your student’s backpack.

Over the winter holidays our students will find themselves spending time with family, playing with friends, and possibly unwrapping packages that wait to be plugged in and charged up.  These may take the form of a phone, tablet, iPod, or laptop and all of these will allow children to create and communicate in ways that make them authentic producers.  We love the pictures they will take with their friends.  We adore the videos they can make and share.  We can’t wait to have them video chat with family that live in far off places.  When that package is unwrapped you will almost see the endless possibilities run through their minds.

But do you really know everything they can do with their new tech toy?  Where are they posting those pictures?  Who are they sharing those videos with?  What apps have they downloaded and with whom can they communicate?  At Condit, we have a robust firewall that limits access to specific programs.  We also teach responsible use, digital citizenship, and online privacy.  At home, a few extra precautions are recommended.  Let me offer a few best practices to consider:

  • Be a stellar role model.  If you have a device, talk to your child about responsible ways to use apps and programs, explain what you do to keep your information private.
  • Keep tabs on the apps/programs they are using.  Make yourself an expert on what they are doing on their devices, play with the apps yourself and see what they are capable of doing and what privacy features are included.
  • Make a family agreement.  Common Sense Media has a few fantastic tools including a family media agreement (http://goo.gl/fr5vWv) that you can use with your children.

 Perhaps, and most importantly, have regular, open conversations about how to be safe and kind with technology.  Heed the advice of Ben Franklin; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Let’s find ways to avoid unfortunate tech situations before they occur.

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