This week we were charged with discussing the virtues of filtering school websites. I am late to the party not for my lazy personality but I really needed to understand some of the background before I could truly understand the controversies. I can see both sides of the issues. As a parent I am very cautious with what my children view online…I don’t block anything at home, but I am also right there when they are online and we have had numerous conversations about online etiquette and proper searching. Often when they have found sites that they like I will just bookmark them. A lot of discussion was with my younger son…he is 8 now. He loves the computer! In fact limiting computer time was punishment during potty training. The stories that I could tell…but will spare you. But he LOVES YouTube! He loves videos on legos, Star Wars, Star Wars Legos, silly claymation videos and videos of talking produce. When he first started using YouTube I was concerned, he has a lot of trouble spelling and reading and would this end up taking him to scandalous sites?? Like others have said if you type in White House.com you get something that is not Obama! I debated with my husband on whether we should block him from using YouTube but I saw it as a teachable moment. We told him that he was being entrusted to look appropriately and use his very best judgment. If he stumbled across something that made him feel that it wasn’t something that he should be watching than he needed to tell me. We has been really faithful with this…really his only filter is his older sister who is constantly looking over his shoulder to monitor his viewing habits. I have gone back and looked at his history, and while his taste in videos is interesting he is doing what he is supposed to do. Don’t think that my job is done I am constantly observing and monitoring but I do let them have a certain amount of freedom…to discover and learn for themselves…I won’t always be there and I want them to have the skills to help themselves.
So I guess that I answered the question all on my own already. I don’t think that filtering is a good idea. Children live in a digital age and have to be taught and given the right tools to learn on their own what is right and wrong. In one of the articles with Michael Gras and Scott Floyd they stated that No usable filter is perfect, and the best filter is achieved through training the child to behave responsibility. Proactive steps are taken in making sure the students are aware of policies, problem avoidance, and appropriate behaviors. I thought this to be true and so important.
For students it becomes frustrating when they can’t access information. Relevant, factual information that is key to their research is often blocked because of a word or phrase. It is frustrating to see them want to learn and understand but be limited by a word. We live in a world where information is in their face. In the blink of an eye information is at their finger tips. Students must be taught how to handle this information rather than be kept from it. If we continually limit their interaction with it they will not be able to handle it. It is our job not to judge what students should and not see or experience but give them the tools in which to understand and filter themselves. Horrible things are happening all around us…just look at the horrible story at Penn State. The story is everywhere, I can limit what my children hear, but they still can glean from what they do hear and make up the rest. It is my job to talk to them in a way that they will understand and in words that they can handle to help them understand without all the details what has happened and why it is important to know what is going on. We need to do this with our students. We can’t limit…if we do they will never learn. If we filter who is to say what is deemed inappropriate. If I say we need to filter Hitler and Nazis because of all the horrible things they did than we are denying that it ever happened. If I say that rape and sex are bad than we silence victims of abuse. How than does this become anything more than banning books, or free speech.
We have to educate not filter our students…wow I guess I did have an opinion…