Creative Thoughts Regarding Cyber-Safety

In a recent blog, Susan has sparked my thinking about internet safety.


I talk with my students about this topic, and I see how they like to learn. Many students LOVE to learn with games, especially simulation and/or networking games.


I'm no programmer--heck, I'm lucky to even just be able to navigate this site and begin to put in html paragraphing! ;-) But I think I have a million-dollar idea. If, after hearing the premise you agree, let me know so that we can get the idea to someone who can/will implement it!


Students love these games, right? So why can't a game be built (I'm picturing a Second Life or a RuneScape-type atmosphere for Middle School aged kids) where kids can log-on, be safe, and play? Sounds innocent, right? However, there are different types of bots programmed in for various types of kids. These bots make friends with the kids too. They talk, move, and interact just as any real-life player would. However, when a player gives too much info or the wrong info to one, it sends a message to the registered teacher/parent/adult. It captures the entire conversation (allowing it to play out--the kid has no idea s/he's triggered the alert) and goes on it's merry way.


This could be played at school, home or any place. It has to be FUN to play, with so many other perks, so that kids making good choices never know; never have a need to know.


Is this Orwellian? It's not intended to be a "gotcha!" type of situation to punish the kid. It's simply a gentle reminder that we need to have another conversation with him/her. Will the kid stop playing the game? Sure! But maybe the technology would be there there for ANY game or social networking site. Maybe we start these bots in the younger kids' games, where we have a lot more control over their lives and they can begin to think "do I know this person" when they're online, in games, or anywhere.


Anyway. Those are my thoughts/solutions. I have no idea if that's already in place and I'm just ignorant. It's kind of a freedom loving, respectful V-Chip. Kids are free to do what they like--to make mistakes--but it gives parents/teachers the opportunity to allow the kids to learn from the mistakes. I think that this, in conjunction with "fire-drill" type simulations could really make a dent in loosening the choke-hold that our kid are in when working/playing online. If they don't have an opportunity to make mistakes, they'll never learn until it's too late.


Oh--you're asking about the fire-drill type of simulation? I LOVE this idea, also sparked by Susan in her question. Fire drills in homes, businesses, and schools. What do they look like? Do we just sit down and look at a map of where we need to go? Do we just sit and the adult lectures the kid? Preposterous idea, huh? No--we actually get off our duffs and run the simulations. We talk to them after our practice about how to do it better. We run more simulations--surprise ones--on a repeated basis. Heck, our most security-oriented businesses run "avian flu" outbreak simulations. So why don't we run 21st century cyber-safety simulations??


Here's the premise for CyberSafety drills. Let's say Mandy gave out too much info online the other day. We pull Mandy from school to simulate something horrible happening to her. Her parents know, the administraion/teachers know. The kids don't know. We ask them if we know where she is? No one knows. A friend calls home to see. Parents don't know. We try to take the day as normally as possible. (Mandy's actually safe at home doing homework she's missing for the day). At the end of the day, we call in our classes and talk about what happened and what it would be like if this was a real fire drill...what life would be like for us knowing Mandy's not around any more.


Yes, there are bugs to this idea, but I think it's as close to a real-life lesson that we'll ever safely get. Maybe we don't tell anyone that Mandy actually did mess up. Or maybe we just randomly call kids in "abducted" to school. I think it depends on the kid--some can handle the "durh I messed up" exposure and some may not. It makes the discussion more real, which is what is needed to break through the "it'll never happen to me" syndrome. What this DOES require is full discussion with the school and community to understand the philosophy behind it. It also requires a school community--where kids are respectful of the safety drills and one another. Finally, it also requires a managable population of kids. I have no idea of how my old school of 800 kids in 7th-8th grades would ever do this.


Let me know what you think. Am I behind the times? Does this already exist and happen out there?

Views: 21

Comment by Kevin on May 27, 2007 at 10:13am
Your post makes me think about so many things I don't know where to start! It seems the technology does what a parent would do if they were there or had time to watch over their kid. Almost outsourcing small pieces of parenting. The "bot" become the parenting predator drone delivering intel to the parent on the go. I don't know about the "big brother" thing but when it comes to keeping kids safe as they grow, there has always been more latitude because they aren't fully grown or aware. (See frontal lobe and executive function) The ideas are interesting to me, especially the fire drill thing. I need more time to process.
Comment by Ginger Lewman on May 27, 2007 at 11:38am
Skip--
What you're saying is completely valid, especially about fighting enemies. I'm not so concerned with the kids thinking it's an invasion of privacy -- heck, they don't really know what that means, what with all the security cameras around, and other pieces that just didn't exist 20 years ago. My privacy concerns are only regarding parent concerns.

Also, the ubiquitous nature of these security checks you mentioned could be helpful with younger kids. I do feel though, that once kids hit about 11years old, they begin testing their wings and go away from the good, solid teachings of youth before their "brain filters" are fully developed.

Also many students in these more recent years don't have the good solid teachings from home, and don't buy in to the teachings of school. Those are the kids I'm truly worried about. Unless we find a way to engage them, we'll lose them.

I agree that we need to fight those who would abuse them. But while that end is being addressed (outside of my expertise), we need to teach kids where their interests lay.
Comment by qdsouza on May 27, 2007 at 8:13pm
To challenge some of the preconceptions that I have had with Internet Safety watch this video:

It is rather long but worth your time. http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=BB39CA9F7CB0D88A

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