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Internet Safety at School and at Home
By Stewart Crais

At Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee, students in grades 7-12 carry their own laptop computers for use in their classes. In this, our fourth year of a technology immersion program, we have seen great improvements in writing skills and cooperative learning, and received much positive feedback from recent graduates. As the school's director of technology and media services, however, I felt that we still needed to become more proactive in educating our parents about the dangers that lurk online.

Two years ago, parents began asking how they could control what their children are doing with laptops at home. Specifically, they were concerned not just with some of the Internet sites their children were visiting, but specifically with the contacts that were being made through instant messaging (IM) and chat rooms. Many children see Internet chat rooms as their place of escape; some have more "online friends" than they have friends at school. Internet stalkers look for that child, the one who trusts online relationships more than school or family relationships. That can lead to a stalker arranging a "meeting" with the child, or tracking down the child at a school or sports activity. Online stalkers are seasoned at grooming their contacts, and at ferreting out the smallest pieces of information that might help them lure a child to talk with -- and eventually meet up with -- them.

With that concern in mind, we developed a Laptop Parent Advisory Council, made up of parents with children in our laptop program. This group of parents became the "experts" on how to advise other parents about monitoring their children's use of the Internet. We met with the Parent Advisory Council a number of times and talked about possible monitoring methods, including software solutions, hardware solutions, and parenting solutions.

In addition, the council, along with the school counseling department and the middle school office, helped design our first Parent Internet Safety Night in March 2003, and a second such meeting this year as well. Those meetings, held at night on our campus with childcare provided, were very well attended. Knowing we were not the experts on this subject, Lausanne staff organized a panel of local professionals to speak at the meeting and answer questions from parents. The panel included

  • a sheriff's deputy currently working with the FBI on a cyber-criminal task force;
  • a psychologist with experience in counseling families on home Internet use;
  • a cyber law specialist from the University of Memphis; and
  • a parent from the Laptop Parent Advisory Council who gave first-hand experience on monitoring Internet use and fostering a strong parent-child relationship.

In addition, local home tech support companies were on hand to help parents implement any ideas they heard about securing their home Internet access.

The panel discussed a variety of topics and offered suggestions to parents on the following topics:

  • The dangers of chat rooms and Instant Messaging, including
    • Internet stalkers;
    • a sense of separation; and
    • inappropriate language.
  • Appropriate e-mail usage. Tips included:
    • If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it in an e-mail.
    • Don't send emotional e-mails.
    • Don't forward inappropriate e-mails.
  • How to determine what your child is doing online. Parents were told:
    • Talk with your child.
    • Monitor software.
    • Set up Internet usage rules.
  • Suggestions for rules to place on Internet usage in their homes, including:
    • Keep the computer in a public area.
    • Restrict the time that the Internet is accessible.
    • If you have wireless accessibility, unplug the access point at a pre-determined time.
  • Ideas on what to watch for in their "connected" children, such as
    • increased time spent online, and
    • disassociation with friends and parents.
  • Current legislation on child Internet safety. Parents learned that:
    • Congress is doing little to protect children.
    • Parents must act, and contact local politicians.

More About Internet Safety

Have you seen these Education World articles about Internet Safety?
* Danger Online! Educating Kids and Parents about Internet Safety
* Paving the Way to Internet Safety
* Internet Safety Rules for Kids


Another step Lausanne has taken to help get out the word about Internet safety is the establishment of a partnership with i-SAFE America. I-SAFE is a congressionally funded, non-profit organization that provides schools in all 50 states with K-12 curriculum, as well as assemblies and outreach programs, on Internet safety.

Last month, the organization provided school leaders throughout the Midsouth with a professional development seminar. Meeting at Lausanne School, I-SAFE trained representatives from Memphis City Schools, three area county districts, the Catholic Diocese of West Tennessee, and 15 area independent schools on how to use i-SAFE's Internet safety curriculum. In addition, they conducted a student assembly on online safety for students in grades 5-12, and a Town Hall Meeting for parents and community leaders from the entire Memphis area. Both events jump started conversations among students and parents on Internet safety. Some students mentioned that they were "reality checked" by the presentations; a few have taken the initiative to become more involved with i-SAFE by being student mentors.

Lausanne currently is implementing much of the i-SAFE curriculum, and will do so even more next year, especially at the 5-8 grade level. That will be accomplished both during students' computer instruction time and during their advisory time.

In addition, high school students are working in the elementary classrooms to help get out the word about Internet safety. The older students have spent time in elementary classrooms discussing ways to be safe online, using some of the i-SAFE materials, and sharing their personal experiences. The younger students have enjoyed the partnership and seem to respect the information more when it comes form the high school students. Faculty sponsors are working at setting up a club for the high school students so that they can better organize their efforts to communicate Internet Safety to younger students.

Keeping kids safe on the Internet is an effort everyone must take part in. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, church or synagogue member, or community leader, you can find some way to participate in this effort.


  • i-SAFE i-SAFE America is an Internet Safety Education Foundation empowering kids and teens with knowledge on how to act responsibly and safely online. Designed as a dynamic, prevention oriented, Internet safety awareness program, i-SAFE is committed to teaching the nation's youth how to use the Internet confidently and responsibly. The events that i-SAFE conducted were professionally organized, contained age-appropriate materials, and were presented in an interactive, multi-media format. In addition, i-SAFE contacted local media and advertised in the local newspaper that they were going to be hosting a town hall meeting. All materials produced by i-SAFE are free to any school or organization. Just visit their Web site, submit an implementation plan (IP), and then order the materials for use in your curriculum, student assembly, parent group, or Town meeting.
  • GetNetWise The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be only "one click away" from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their and their family's use of the Internet.

About the Author

In his eleventh year at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, Tennessee, Stewart Crais serves as the school's director of technology and media services, handling purchasing, software licensing, network administration, and overall technology planning. A graduate of Rhodes College and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, Crais also is director of the Laptop Institute at Lausanne, an international conference for K-12 schools using or considering using laptops. Crais is the coauthor of "Technology Usage and Administration at the Independent School: Balancing Control and Autonomy" in Looking Ahead: Independent School Issues and Answers published by the National Association of Independent Schools.


Article by Stewart Crais
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