Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Technology Helps Keep Kids Safe on Cell Phones

As an advocate of technology in the classroom in general and cell phones in particular, I’ve often argued that a phone is no longer just a phone. Kids can do anything on a cell phone that can be done on a computer. Banning what is perhaps our country’s most ubiquitous technology just doesn’t make sense as cells can be a powerful answer to providing all kids with equity and access to a powerful technology that enables collaboration, information, sharing of resources and creation never before possible. However, in addition to the fear of a cell as a distractor that can be used inappropriately, there are also safety issues.

Today, Dr. Phil shared a technology that addresses this concern called My Mobile Watchdog which allows adults to monitor text messaging to help keep kids cyber safe. Dr. Phil makes a smart observation saying the problem is not the use of technologies but rather the misuse. This is an extremely interesting and powerful technology leaving me with many questions. As an advocate of using mobile phones and technologies in education, I wonder how schools and districts interested in using cells might be able to utilize this type of technology to help mitigate some common fears such as using cells for cheating, or other inappropriate use.

I also wonder how I feel about adults having the ability to read student’s messages and reflect upon my own adolescent years and my yearning for privacy. However, after a bit a thought and investigation, I think that a K-12 child's parent or school should have the right to monitor a minor's use for a few reasons. First, this not spyware because the students/children are aware they are being monitored. Additionally, the adults can discuss with children what will be monitored so a child could negotiate unmonitored conversations of those who parents trust. Additionally, just knowing adults are in this world acts as a deterrent to inappropriate behavior and several kids admitted to liking the fact that a trusted adult was watching out for them.

My Mobile Watchdog offers special programs to assist law enforcement across the United States, and awareness programs for school, church and youth groups which educators may be interested in investigating further. This is a promising technology that has potential for helping bring us closer to being able to safely prepare students for the 21st century. The cost is $9.55 a month.

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