Hoover educators teaching common sense in digital world

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

HOOVER — For instructors in the Hoover School System, recent headlines such as “Students use Facebook to bully teachers,” “Teens texting hurts sleep, maturity” and “College students sued for music downloads” offer warnings for the children they’re teaching.

Cameron McKinley, a technology coach for Hoover City Schools, told parents at a Sept. 16 information session that digital citizenship is a necessity in this ever-changing world.

“We’re trying to cover aspects of digital citizenship with students,” McKinley said. “You have to have open dialogue with them. If you don’t have a Facebook account and your child does, it’d be best to get one.”

As parents across the room furiously jotted notes, technology coach Jeff Richardson spoke about his experiences with his own children, such as when his 10-year-old son immediately navigated to YouTube on an iPod Touch — something Richardson wasn’t even aware the device could do.

“You can actually broadcast live on the Internet with a phone. Your child’s phone may be able to do that. It’s a really cool feature, but think about the implications if it’s used in a negative way,” Richardson said. “Know what your phone and your child’s phone can do. Set the rules, and make sure your kids know what they are.”

Richardson said he’s talked to students who come in school yawning and tell him they didn’t get enough sleep because they text friends throughout the night.

“That’s what we’re trying to teach them from kindergarten — just because I can, doesn’t mean I should,” he said.

The session also touched on “sexting,” or sex texting, when Leslie Schiffman, an assistant district attorney with the Bessemer Division Law Enforcement Team, spoke on the seriousness of such messages.

Schiffman said there are possible charges that go along with such messages, especially if they include graphic photos. Such charges include: possession of obscene matter, distribution or display of obscene matter and possession of obscene matter with intent to distribute, among other charges.

There is also a distinct possibility anyone who takes or distributes such photos will have to file as a sex offender, she said.

For more information on technological issues or digital citizenship, visit Commonsense.org and the Hoover City Schools’ site, Digitalcitizenship.wiki.hoover.k12.al.us.