Their Young Eyes are Watching

Children often accompany their parents to the local gyms to watch high school basketball. When the towering center slam dunks with thunder, their young eyes are watching. When the star shooter nails a three-pointer at the buzzer, their young eyes are watching. When the speedy defensive specialist steals a pass and goes coast-to-coast for an easy layup, their young eyes are watching.

When their dad refuses to abide by the school and gym rules, gets loud and abusive towards the administrator-on-duty, and eventually gets tossed by security—their young eyes are watching.
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Much parental concern is rightfully directed at children’s behavior on the Internet and on cell phones. Because the parents’ experience and reference with these technologies are often so far removed from their children’s, schools have a responsibility to outreach on the topic (as we did in 06-07). That outreach should be refreshed periodically, perhaps annually.

I do not aim to downplay the possibility of threats in any communication medium or personal encounter. However, ill-informed outreach programs and over-zealous safeguards can backlash and create a false sense of security.

Balance is the key . . . and that takes an open mind and comprehensive study.

The recent PBS Frontline: Growing Up On-line gives precisely that balanced approach. If you missed the show on 1/22, you can catch it on-line. It is offered in the following six segments of 7-9 minutes each:

  • Living Their Lives Essentially On-line
  • A Revolution in Classrooms and Social Lives
  • Self-Expression: Trying on New Identities
  • The Child Predator Fear (recommended for parents)
  • Private Worlds Outside Parents’ Reach
  • Cyberbullying

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One of the biggest myths of Internet safety is heavy-handed filtering. Although federal law requires filtering in schools, it —in and of itself—fails to prepare kids and community for what they may face after school hours and after school years. Balanced filtering has to be twinned with teaching Internet safety to 100% of our stakeholders. That is our charge in a new world order where kids are growing up on-line.

As schools consider the next Internet Safety outreach effort to stakeholders, they should consider using some of the quality PBS video. Also, accompanying resources found in “Keeping Kids Safe” provide context, strategies, and balance for educators and parents alike.

I would urge concerned and committed parents to watch these PBS segments with their kids, then unplug the wireless router for a bit.

Maybe take them—their young eyes— to watch a basketball game where by choice or happenstance, much like on the Internet, they are privvy to the range of human potential.

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