Question: We have received some phone calls from concerned parents about the website, and the type of content being posted there by our students. Should our district IT department block access to from the school network?

The IT Guy says:
Clearly there are many Websites which should and must be blocked, both from moral and legal perspectives, in US schools. The tendency among most IT departments is to block Websites conservatively: this line of thinking reasons, better to block the Website and avoid complaints from parents than deal with the issues which we’ll have if the site is accessible.

The problem with this reasoning is that it may provide a rationalization for school leaders to avoid critically important issues of internet safety and parent education. Parents as well as educators need to know about MySpace and the recklessly dangerous way students are posting information about themselves and their classmates there. Educator and blogging expert Will Richardson of New Jersey has posted some excellent thoughts about this to his blog. See his post “In the Blog House.” Some of Will’s comments on this topic are worth quoting verbatim here:

“My students would be safer if we worked hard to provide our students with some context for their actions and gave them some tools for making good decisions about what and what not to publish. They'd be safer if we educated parents to help them understand what their children are doing and how they can counsel them. They'd be safer if every teacher and administrator and staff member were modeling the benefits of publishing online. They'd be safer if we employed the "reasonable standard of care" that I mentioned yesterday.”

This question raises very important issues that both district administrators as well as classroom teachers need to study, to better understand, and about which to engage parents in a dialog. Whether or not the final decision of the district is to block in-school student access to, these issues must be raised and publicly addressed.

For more on this topic, refer to my blog post "MySpace and iSafety."

Next Tip: Posting student multimedia online