Should We Be Giving Students a Jackknife?

My youngest daughter loves to be outdoors, and this year her grandfather gave her a jackknife as a birthday present. A surprise to all of us! The gift gave me the same uneasy feeling I had when my kids received free communication and collaboration products like those offered by Edmodo and Google.

I don’t much like surprises that represent a potential danger to my kids. I’m not against giving them more responsibility as they get older, but as a loving and protective parent, I want to be ahead of the game by preparing them on the dangers and proper use of anything new. Like the jackknife from their grandfather, I was unnerved by the lack of communication from my children’s school and educators about the new technology they were placing in their hands.

When my children received these accounts, I wasn’t given any notice from the school district or their teachers. No email, no voicemail, no text, no take-home notice, nothing. Being familiar with all of these products, I’m keenly aware that they have the potential to be a sharp knife in the hands of kids.

In the case of a product like Edmodo, teacher accounts can be obtained without proper validation from administrators, and inappropriate photos and text posted without any filtering or monitoring by the school or application provider. I was also concerned when my daughter announced she had registered her mobile phone for texting with her teacher without any monitoring of that communication, and, yet again, no communication to the parents.

Regardless of the tools being used, schools need to understand the shortcomings of products like Google Apps for Education (GAFE) that do very little to prevent inappropriate content and text to pass through them. Affordable services are available that can provide you, your staff and your parents with safeguards to protect students while they learn how to responsibly use school-provided technology.

Gaggle’s dedicated Safety Management student safety representatives watch over students who use our services―as well as districts that implement our GAFE integration―by leveraging our proprietary technology around the clock. We’re often able to alert schools early about potential self-harm, violence or even bullying as well as inappropriate content and text. Even our texting service requires that teachers and students register their phones privately and monitors all communications to protect all involved.

Why are online safeguards for my children any less essential when schools are providing them the tools?  Early in my career, I visited a veneer-processing mill and was amazed at the safeguards placed on the saws and cutting equipment to protect employees from danger. Should schools not assume the same obligations when providing tools that can pose a danger to students?  Surely, the liability is just as significant even if the product is “free” (like a puppy!).