Saturday, 15 May 2010

Whose responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?

Well, this Q obviously seems to point to 2 main constituents: parents & educators. In terms of educators, without the backing of a more powerful force, like a government, educators may fall short of being able to enforce whatever policies are set out in schools (even interna-
tional schools). It seems like 'teaching students to be safe online' also involves a set of policies that would drive the curriculum. In the States, this may be a little easier given the laws being written probably even as I write this blog post. I found these US cyber bullying state laws and policies that seem to be the result of the barn door being closed after the horse has left.

But, maybe that's how these laws and policies have to be manifested. I also found this law in Thailand that will require user tracking in Internet cafes. Although a double-edged sword hinting at violation of freedom at the expense of security, this seems to be the crux of the solution, if we are in agreement with the underlying assumption that local and government laws are fundamental to policies for educational institutions.

My husband and I recently had dinner with a friend from the States who plans to pursue a degree in Internet Law. Being a digital native he's fascinated by the unseen growing demand to figure out jurisprudence for the new web world we're in. He believes he'll be entering an ultra-dynamic world whereby laws will be written, revised and rewritten according to the new crimes that manifest with the new online developments, like cyberbullying issue that Facebook is currently grappling with.

And, we members of society, are found to be in agreement with another fundamental in ethics as part of the Ethical Domains I described in my previous post: that of not harming others (Domain 1). To further the point, 'the harming of innocents' is even worse. So, as various stories unravel, we learn of victims (especially young ones) of 'crimes' like cyberbullying, like the Palo Alto student who was victim of a hate group. Or, rather I would say members of society are in agreement with not harming others, again, until it crosses the line of freedom of speech (which BTW is under 'fairness/ rights' in Domain 2). Interesting article in the Tech Herald about Facebook's attempt to appease those in an uproar over the hate group incident, yet others who fear their freedom of speech is further eroding. It's a battle over these two fundamental values, and according to the J. Haidt research, it's more of a battle among liberals who tend to hold these domains as more important than conservatives. Try taking the 'Moral Foundations Questionnaire' at to see how you fair with these two domains.

Despite the counterclaims out there about our freedom being further jeopardized by yet another law or policy, it seems to me that it's more a matter of getting the new law/policy in and the old ones out, rather than just adding new ones. I'm hoping that more young people entering Internet Law like our dinner friend will be able to keep pace with the needs as they arise, and maybe be able to find that balance between freedom and security. Then, maybe we educators can also find the proper balance.

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