Thursday, May 15, 2014

Internet Safety And A Smallish Rant About Standardized Testing

   There are so many things going on right now, and one of those things is MSP testing, and the countdown to summer vacation. The end of the school year always seems to have my daughter so flustered and tense. The MSP testing is one of those reasons (MSP = measurement of student progress). My daughter is one of the fortunate, she doesn't freeze up for testing and she has good study habits, but that doesn't mean that she enjoys all the testing. This year, I think she is only being tested in reading and math, because the subjects they are tested on is based by grade-level, but in previous years, she has had so many tests that she would seem to be having tests every single day. Not all of them were MSP, because regular classes must go on, in spite of standardized testing that really tells us nothing.
    This year, her testing days are lower, but she has had a lot of essays to write, which I am not complaining about, because that is something that she actually does need to learn to do well. She has plans for college, and the better she is at writing, the better she will do in college. I'm not a critic of hard work, I am a critic of useless, meaningless hard work, and to me, standardized testing fits that bill. All those tests do is point out the kids who can take tests well, and the kids who have testing issues, and really, the level of stress that those tests cause in my daughter alone, who tests well, to me, indicates that these tests cause more stress than they are worth, but I digress. I actually wanted to write a blog post about internet safety, and I find myself ranting about standardized testing. Okay, so back to the essays.
   My daughter has been doing a lot of internet research for her essays (because my computer is a piece of shit that craps out on you at the most inconvenient time, she's been using her Kindle -- thank you Grandma for the Kindle!!) and this naturally has lead me to thinking about how much kids actually use the internet these days as compared to when I was in school.
   We had a few specialized computer classes when I was in school, but I never spent any real time with a computer until I started college. I muddled through my first semester with no real computer skills, and after that first term was over -- I signed up for as many beginning computer classes as I could. If college is something you are thinking about, and you don't know at least the basics of computer skills and Microsoft Office navigation, then I suggest classes designed to teach these things be your first.
   Unlike me, my daughter has been using computers at school since day one of kindergarten. In fact, when I walked into her first parent teacher conference, I was shown how she had to navigate through log-in screens to reach her AR reading tests. In first grade, she made her first Powerpoint -- I hadn't even known what a Powerpoint was until college -- and she was already using computers for research, which meant that the school was giving them internet safety lessons.
   The librarian did this, and one of the exercises that she used was that she printed out some conversations that was supposedly between them and some person on the internet that they thought was a kid, and then she would show them some creepy picture that was really who they were talking to. The one that stuck most in my mind was a bearded man in a purple dress surrounded by cats. I can see why this person might not be the best person for a kid to talk to, not knowing them, but for me, there are so many damn kids on the internet, I find that I would rather talk to the bearded purple dress man than some little nine year old pretending to be a bad-ass, because that man would likely have a somewhat interesting life-story as opposed to someone whose mom still packs their lunch, but I digress.
   I don't really think that exercise did a whole lot of good. There are a lot of predators out there, I am not denying that, but in my experience, scare tactics has never been a good teaching tool. I can't keep my daughter off of the internet, because her school work would suffer. But there are things, that as a mom, I can do. So to all of you who are wondering or thinking on this issue, these are some of the things that I do (which doesn't mean that you have to, but just for ideas) and one is learn parental controls on your devices. I actually don't have mine very blocked, just so that actual porn will not come up, but what I like is the report that I get that says what she is looking at, so that I can look too. Also, don't be afraid to look over your kid's shoulder every now and again, just so that you can get a visual. Most importantly, be available to help. If your kid needs help with something, you get the bonus of getting to come over and snoop around without seeming, well, snoop-y.  But even more importantly than that, teach your kid some commonsense. Commonsense can go a loooooong way when you are talking internet safety, and a lot of other safety as well. Nothing trumps commonsense, and the long of the short of this issue is that keeping your kids away from the internet may not be in the best of your kid's interest. Of course, that is something that only you, as the parent, can decide, but if you decide to go the internet route, just remember, be involved and use (and teach) commonsense. 

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