Attention getting news item today posted by Andy Carvin and brought to my attention by David Warlick: “New Federal Legislation Would Ban Online Social Networks in Schools & Libraries.” According to Andy:

As reported by C|NET, the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, would update the federal law that currently requires all schools and libraries receiving federal E-Rate money (the government program that subsidizes the cost of Internet access) to filter inappropriate websites. The amendment to the law would be even more specific, restricting access to interactive online communities.

According to the proposed legislation, the bill:

prohibits access by minors without parental authorization to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or in- decent material; may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults may easily access other material that is harmful to minors.

How many read/write websites and technologies would be banned under this definition? Blogger? Flickr? Del.icio.us? Again in this situation we see the tension behind those supporting reactionary, statist responses and those supporting more dynamical and empowering approaches to conflict resolution. And again, conversations are the answer.

Of course:

  • We need (and should want) to protect our young people from predators and indecent materials – and -
  • We need (and should want) to comply with US laws that are constitutional and moral.

But banning technologies cannot be our ONLY response to the reality of digital social networking by students and others! The answers to this and so many of the complex problems we face in society are not more technocratic, top-down legislated rules. People are the problem, and people are the solution.

How are we helping students learn to safely navigate digital social networking environments? Cheryl Oakes and teachers at Wells Elementary School are doing this with Think.com, as Cheryl discussed in my last podcast. But will legislation like this scare even more educators (and specifically administrators) from trying to help students, parents, and others learn about safe uses of these tools? I hope not, but that seems likely.

Should we ban pencils too? How about iPods? Are we going to stop teaching drivers’ education to teenagers? We have to prepare students for the real world, not just the fake world of the district managed LAN. I am not advocating that anyone break the law and ignore CIPA. But I am advocating for the responsible use of technology tools within a broader curriculum of digital citizenship.

Sadly, some digital immigrants just don’t seem to get it. Why do so many of these people seem to be policymakers?!


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  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Wes,

    These knee jerk reactions in an effort to protect our children have so many flaws it’s hard to even list them all. The recent announcement about the city of Aurora raises the issue of filtering among the free service that will exist throughout the city. I’m guessing the city of Aurora won’t be filtering nor should they.

    THis reminds me of a recent discussion on the spending habits of the Cancer Society. They are spending 90% or there abouts on reactionary measures and only 10% on prevention. THe money being spend on filtering could be much better spend on being developing teachers and students who fully understand the implications of the the online world and are able to make informed choices. They’ll always have the choice outside of the classroom but with filtering, they’ll never have to consider their choices.

  • http://www.musingsfromtheacademy.blogspot.com/ astephens

    I think you are on to something… We should definitely ban pencils, pens, paper, etc. because students can write offensive things and share them with others. We may want to look at banning markers too. :)

    Seriously, education is the key. People hear what the media is reporting in regards to social networking sites but they have never seen the positive side of these technologies.

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  • http://www.cheryloakes.com Cheryl Oakes

    Another example of digital immigrants coming up with “rules” for the good of themselves. Today’s schools are not our mothers’ schools. Instead they are schools of the future. Or as one high school senior said about working on laptops at our high school, oh yeah, they have things blocked, but, with a smile, we know how to get around them with proxies. I had to smile too!
    Speed bumps will only slow them down it won’t prevent them from going places. However, my computer classes about Internet safety and Netiquette are about spending quality time and quality conversations students will reflect on for years to come.

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