Are kids being safe on the Internet, and do their parents know?
Collinsville Unit 10 is seeking the answers through a new districtwide survey. Students in grades 5-12 already have taken the survey at school, along with many of their teachers.
Now parents are being asked to answer questions about computer use at home, focusing on safety.
"The way the world is today, you can never be too safe when it comes to kids on computers, both at school and at home," said John Griffith, principal of Dorris Intermediate School. Dorris has been a big participant in the survey, and the age group of grades 5-6 is ground zero for teaching Internet safety, according to technology director Sue Homes.
The district has already begun an Internet safety curriculum called NetSmarts, Griffith said.
"We're making great strides that way," he said. "Kids are more aware now than they were before the program started. ... It's an initiative that has to take place on two ends, though -- it has to be at home, monitoring what kids are doing on the computer."
For example, students are asked questions about social networking sites and how much information they reveal online. Their parents will be asked similar questions.
"It would be nice to compare the parents' perception to the child's perception," Homes said. "It's anonymous, so the kids will tell us the truth rather than putting down the answers that they think are the right answers."
For that, however, more parents will have to take the survey. An automated phone call went out Wednesday night to all families in the district, but only 95 parents have responded so far. The survey is linked on the district's Web site at www.unitten.org.
Parents can also take the survey by phone or request a paper survey, Homes said.
Other questions include Internet safety in the home: What do children use computers for at home, how many hours do they spend online and what features are in place to protect them?
The survey will help the district develop a three-year plan for technology improvement, including training of staff, students and the community in technology advancements. It is required for the district to be eligible for federal grants, including "e-rate" funds. "They want to make sure the monies you apply for with e-rate are not used without good intentions and forethought," Homes said.
Technology goes beyond Internet use, of course -- in recent years Collinsville has added the automated phone-call system and Edline, a service that allows parents to check their children's grades, attendance, schedules and more.
Cyberbullying is another issue schools are facing, Griffith said.
"One case is too many, in my opinion," he said. "It's important to have parental input and perspective. A principal can have a good grasp of what's going on in the building, but we want to know what's going on in the community and the households. It would be great if all parents would take part.
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