Teaching Kids About Web Literacy

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Image: www.freefoto.comImage: www.freefoto.com

Image: www.freefoto.com

Cory Doctorow has a great essay at Internet Evolution about the problems with censorware and more effective ways to teach kids how to be safe and responsible web citizens. I teach high school and I know first hand how censorware can be more of a burden than an asset. The ostensible purpose of these systems is reasonable: keep kids safe from stuff online that is genuinely harmful to them or to the network and keep them away from distractions that they don’t need when they should be studying or doing research.

However, the reality is that the system simply doesn’t work. Some harmful content gets blocked, but a lot of bad stuff goes right on through. Even the things that are blocked can usually be gotten to with a few easy tricks. The false positives are even more annoying.I have had many cases where I wanted to show an online video in class or direct students to an interesting site or article only to have it blocked. Censorware systems are certainly easier than trying to manually police students’ web activity, but I think a more effective solution is to actually teach them the difference between good and bad stuff on the internet. That way they can police themselves and, hopefully, learn how to be responsible adults in the process.

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