School Libraries and Classrooms: First it was Book Banning… Now it’s Site Banning

WARNING: It’s a rant…

Ok, my freak flag is about to fly high again. I have been reading the hubbub about a recent bill to “protect our children from pornography” and psychotic poaching in the schools. And once again, I have to wonder about our school system and our political system.

I mean, seriously (to capture one of my favorite Grey’s Anatomy phrases)…If we, as a society, have first given our right to parent our children to the state and the school system, I must (apparently) learn to quit asking “where are the parents in this scenario?” But, after reading the bill that’s being promoted, I have to ask a similar question, “Where are the teachers during school hours?” if this is the type of thing they worry will happen in schools?

Of course, concern for the children’s privacy is a serious one. After all, I recently learned that my own son’s high school class called the daily roll by projecting the children’s names up on the wall, along with sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers and home phone numbers and addresses. I nearly had a fit.

So, I’m glad to know that someone thinks personal information should be kept from marketing efforts aimed at children, unless, according to the text of the bill,, “use of personal information about a child if the parent of the child has granted express consent to that sale, purchase, or use of the information.” Hmmm, and I’m sure parents will be lining up for that, eh?

If you want to read the full bill from January, 2007, visit here:

I’m not advocating the use of MySpace during school hours. But I’m also not in favor of “filtering and dumbing down” the Internet for teenagers. I think a better approach may just be EDUCATING the children about the dangers, precautions to take and security concerns related to the Internet. Kinda like making sure they know the dangers of unsafe sex because you can’t watch them 24/7. It’s not only impossible, it’s an exhausting thing to attempt.

The web is here to stay. Children now are growing up in this environment. Isn’t it a SANE approach to actually educate the children in school? Maybe I’m just crazy, but that’s my take on it. And the body of this bill, the bulk of what it appears to cover, is already covered in the Children’s Online Privacy Act of 1998 — the remainder is, well… mostly inane, IMHO.

Personally, I know both of my sons have MySpace accounts. Does it bother me? Nope. One is 18 and has had the conversations with me about privacy and security concerns for years. The other, 16, has me on his “friends” list at the top and knows that I regularly drop by to visit him and take a peek at his “friends” and that I am unabashed at expressing any concerns I may see.

The result? I’ve had the boys’ friends contact me directly, ask to add me to their friends list and comment to my sons that I’m such a “cool” Mom — all because I stay involved. I keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in my sons’ world. I don’t ask them to conform to my world — just to make good, informed decisions in their own.

After all, isn’t that what parenting and education is all about? Teaching responsibility, safety and self-preservation to those we hold in our charge? Isn’t education all about teaching them to make good decisions for themselves?

Children aren’t stupid, they are quite clever. Put in blocks to keep social networks on the school computers and they will spend their free time dedicated to finding ways to overthrow “big brother” — it will become a moral imperative. If you keep an open mind and teach them about all facets of life online, they will make their own choices and spend that effort doing something a bit more valuable with their time than hacking the school’s computers … like studying or researching or even chatting with their friends online.