After an Indian Creek Middle School student inadvertently copied her mother on an email she was sending to a 20-year-old man, the parent discovered the girl had corresponded with the man more than 100 times.
The mother didn’t allow her kids to take the laptop to their rooms because she always wanted to be able to see what they were working on. But the daughter was using her school-issued iPad. And her mother said she didn’t regularly monitor what her kids were doing online after they received the iPads from their school.
The girl and the man had met playing the online game Clash of Clans, which Indian Creek students are allowed to keep on their iPads and lets users email each other.
This incident didn’t lead to more serious issues, but it serves as a reminder of the potential dangers for young people using the Internet.
When Indian Creek students use their iPads to go online, any websites they visit or searches they conduct are sent through the school district’s filter, regardless of where the student is using the devices. That means students can’t access a website the school district has blocked, even if they’re using the iPad at home. Indian Creek officials also receive a report anytime students use the iPads to conduct searches with words including “gun,” “suicide” or sexually explicit words.
But school officials can’t stop students from emailing other people with the devices. The principals didn’t know of other instances of Indian Creek students emailing people they don’t know with their iPads, but they do know it’s been a problem for students in other Indiana school districts.
“That’s the problem we’re having. We can’t shut down the Internet,” Indian Creek Middle School assistant principal Sean Zachery said.
That’s why this fall Zachery wants the middle school to spend more time talking about Internet safety with students and with parents who might have never before had to think about what their children were doing online.
The middle school also will have technology open houses where parents can learn online safety tips. Administrators said the high school already makes online safety a part of emails and newsletters that are sent to parents, and they include tips such as not letting students keep the devices in their rooms and keeping kids off the Internet after 9 p.m.
As Indian Creek High School assistant principal Nick Sears said, “It’s kind of like going out late at night. At a certain point, only bad things happen.”
Here are some of the tips for parents whose students have iPads:
Don’t allow students to keep the devices in their rooms; at night have them charging in a kitchen or family room.
Create a cut-off time. Make sure students are offline by 9 or 10 p.m.
Talk with students about using the devices to take pictures. Children and teens need to know that pictures posted online or sent to others cannot be erased.
Remind students that they should never talk with strangers online or reveal personal information about themselves.
Teachers, administrators and especially parents must take a proactive approach to protect children against online predators and to teach youngsters about the consequences of inappropriate online postings.
It is important that parents monitor their children’s online activity, even with school-issued devices.