Online Communities – One of Those Stories

By Mike –
You know, some of us have mixed feelings about Online Communities. I did some work for an online home schooling last year. I developed Advanced Placement (AP) courses that meet the requirements of education and that translate well after some challenging adjustments to the internet.

But after I spent literally hundreds of hours designing interactive peer tasks and assignments that were virtual adventures (required emailing and web surfing to Online Communities and interaction in those Online Communities’ Chat Rooms etc.), I was told by the Curriculum Manager I would have to re-do all lessons that involved renting videos outside of the home, emailing between students, and all bulletin board activity.

As a teacher I was offended, pissed, hurt… Mostly because good pedagogy was being compromised and good students would be getting sub-standard lessons. Nevertheless, I was also stunned… when a fellow instructor working on site emailed me and explained why the courses could not be 110% academically sound: the parents of those getting home-schooled did not want their kids having anything to do with others, especially with Online Communities.

While as a teacher, I expect and accept no less than ideal educational rights, facilities, exposure, etc. for my students. However, as a compassionate and thoughtful being, I am aware of the risks involved with Online Communities and appreciate the dangers such parents are working to avoid. If, then, you are a kid bothering to read this far, think about the nasty creeps or psychologically damaged people out there: they troll the web and sneak into Online Communities (Chat rooms, Forums, and other meeting places) and pretend to be someone they are not, specifically, someone your age, so they can take advantage.

If, however, you are a parent reading this, consider the following:
Forget about keeping your kids under “Control”; they are not the ones to suspect. They are the ones to trust… as you have taught them well, haven’t you? You trust yourselves, right? Here is an example of how kids are most often underestimated (and how smart protective measures, while not punishing kids by disallowing them any access to other humans work)

Five teenaged boys created a fake profile (posed as a 15-year-old girl) on the most popular of Online Communities, MySpace. They did so not out of malevolence or brattiness, but to create a mockery, a joke, to cheer up a sick friend. A 48-year-old man started posting messages to this fake girl. He made the boys suspicious with sexual implications in his messages, with a picture of himself, and with an invitation to meet in a local park. So the boys went to the park at the agreed upon time, spotted the man, and called the police.

Too bad we cannot put the same faith in our kids we put in our higher powers and we give to strict methods that prevent rather than teach kids well.

Keep the following in mind when you use Online Communities:
You have the power and the RIGHT to protect your privacy. No one should ever be enabled to shame you into giving up information. You are smart and therefore will refuse to allow strangers to trick you, as well.

Check out the Online Communities safety suggestions at safe sites, such as at Safe Kids Online. There is a page called “My Rules for Online Safety” at http://www.safekids.com/kidsrules.htm

There is no need to panic or live in constant fear; advanced thinking and self-protection beat being scared any day. Read also about Online Dating Service.

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