Over the course of the past week I have savored the editorial page in search of responses to the article regarding teens and the Internet (Empire, Nov. 6). I must admit, I am disappointed by the lack of printed response. Parents Unite has a primary goal of increasing awareness regarding these sites and I think that goal has been sorely overlooked by the salacious elements of the story. Some believe that we are seeking to be some sort of "Big Brother" or "Internet Police" and nothing can be farther from the truth. Each and every member of Parents Unite treasures our constitutional rights and we understand that regardless of race, creed, gender or age all Americans are entitled to these rights. Parents Unite has a set of goals, the greater of which are to reduce youth alcohol and drug use in Juneau. The Internet usage got lumped in by the sheer fact that some of our youth were touting their risky behaviors on these sites. As a result we decided that it was time to increase awareness in the following manner.
First, inform the parents and guardians of our children that this activity was going on so that they could take the opportunity to talk to their kids about the dangerous situations they may be placing themselves in. We have found that an overwhelming majority of parents in Juneau had no idea that their children were posting to these sites, much less the content of those postings. Parents need to know so that they can better prepare their children.
Second, inform the kids that this is how they are presenting themselves to the world. If they do not desire their parents, teachers, employers, college recruiters, the police, or others to see them in this light then they should be more selective about what they are posting. The world is rapidly catching up to the information age and sometimes too much information is not a good thing.
To that end, we have in fact requested that the Juneau School District restrict access to these sites on school computers. It is such a common-sense solution. As a taxpayer of this community it seems to me that school teachers are there to teach, not to spend their class time wandering the room monitoring every computer to make sure that their students are not using district technology inappropriately. Likewise, I thought students were there to learn, not instant-message their friends during lit class. There is plenty of time in the course of a day to socialize with their friends in that manner they don't need to be doing it during class. For those that say some kids don't have computers at home, there are computers at the public library that allow free access to these sites and the hours of operation are quite reasonable. I resent that our children think that they have an inalienable right to chitchat on the Internet with their friends when they are supposing to be learning. In the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act, we are doing an extreme disservice to the students who are there to learn and get an education by allowing this behavior to continue.
How hard can it be to institute a simple block on a Web site so that our schools can get back to the business of education? If kids want to access these sites, that's great - just do it on their own time and on some other computer.
Kathi Collum co-founded Parents Unite with Amy Deininger in September. She is an office administrator at Jensen Yorba Lott, Inc., and the mother of four Juneau School District children.