The parents are frustrated.
They have four kids in the East Union High attendance area.
They are not big fans of Going Digital for two reasons. First, they believe their fourth grader is too immature to be responsible for a tablet. Unlike a textbook, they believe a tablet will be easier to misplace. And they are convinced their youngest son will eventually break the school-issued tablet costing them a couple hundred dollars. That’s because they’ve seen their son boy-handle books over the years including dropping them perhaps dozens upon dozens of times. They take little comfort in assurances you can drop the devices 50 times or so before they will break.
But what irks them is the school district is essentially undermining their parental authority.
They have a stringent rule in their household limiting access to the Internet for their children that are in fourth grade through high school. They have done it in part by limiting the number of electronic devices in their home as well as with parental controls.
But come January their four children will have school issued tablets in their hands.
While students will have filtered Internet access on school property, monitoring access is the parent’s responsibility once they step off campus.
That means anywhere a youth can access the Internet away from school is the parents’ problem, not the school’s. It creates a big area of opportunity for kids to be without anyone supervising them — parents or teachers — while using the Internet. And unless parents put the tablets under lock and key at home, they can access them when they want as well in the privacy of their bedrooms if they can access a wireless service.
They essentially have the same fears that Chris Anderson has when it comes to his kids and electronic devices.
Anderson is the chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone manufacturer, and former editor of Wired. Anderson notes that he severely restricts his five kids aged 6 to 17 when it comes to accessing electronic devices to the point of not even allowing them to use them. He says the same is true of many of his friends that are parents as well as high-powered executives in the high tech industry as well.
They are concerned about the dangers of the Internet, specifically pornography, cyberbullying, and hate sites. He also doesn’t want his kids to become addicted to electronic devices.
As surprisingly as it may sound, the man whose company gave the world the mass produced tablet — the late Steve Jobs — did the same thing with his kids. He went as far as to not allow his kids to use the iPad due to the ease that they could access the Internet. Impressionable young minds can get into some heavy stuff by accident.
The East Union parents take little comfort in the Manteca Unified requirement that all students take a series of two to three tests on digital citizenship before being issued their devices.
The tests will touch on keeping personal information private and finding reliable resources on the Internet for research purposes.
The instruction will discuss the need to charge devices nightly as well as how to care for the tablets while using them.
It will also cover Internet etiquette. That includes citing sources properly, preventing cyberbullying, and communicating in an appropriate manner.
It is a tall order.
Not only are kids naturally curious and given to peer pressure to try and/or look at different things, but many adults don’t grasp the concept of Internet safety and the need to keep personal information private.
Last month when Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Jason Messer was traveling to a conference in Florida to sing the praises of Microsoft and Going Digital, he was posting the fact he was in transit to the gathering on his Facebook page that has no restrictions to public access.
One of the most basic rules is not to let the world know when you are traveling and away from home. As such, a savvy criminal could come across the Facebook posting and use the Internet to even determine where Messer’s home is in Stockton.
Does that sound paranoid? Check with police departments across the country. Criminals mining the Internet for information on when people are vacationing and then searching to find where they live is becoming more and more prevalent as they target homes to burglarize.
Manteca Unified has 23,000 students. Many of them don’t have the ability to delve into the Internet at will. That will change in January.
The odds are also against none of them getting swept up in pornography or cyberbullying no matter how many “digital driver’s license tests” Manteca Unified has them take.
A tablet is not a textbook.
It breaks and it can be a portal to an endless pit of both good and bad information.
And Manteca Unified is about to let the genie out for 23,000 kids creating a daunting challenge for parents even those who try to be as careful as the man who should know the powerful force the device can be in a developing child’s life — Steve Jobs.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.