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Dad's computer rules updated

A co-worker and I will be giving a series of "Digital Parenting" workshops through the district's Community Education Department this fall. With about 5000 Chromebooks now in the hands of our curious 12-18-year-old students, we thought this might be a popular topic in our community.

This topic has been a favorite of mine ever since Carol Simpson asked me to write an article on the subject. That article, "Developing an Ethical Compass for Worlds of Learning", was published in MultiMedia Schools' November/December 1998 issue and was later recognized by the University of California's MERLOT as a distinguished. It's still a pretty good read if I do say so myself.

Only half-jokingly I brag that in that 20-year-old article, I coined the idea of "digital citizenship." The passage:

...while families and the church are assigned the primary responsibility for a child’s ethical education, schools have traditionally had the societal charge to teach and reinforce some moral values, especially those directly related to citizenship and school behaviors. Most of the ethical issues that surround technology deal with societal and school behaviors and are an appropriate and necessary part of the school curriculum.

Close enough? The article eventually became the  book Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age: An Ethics Guide for Parents, Teachers, Librarians, and Others Who Care about Computer-Using Young People (Linworth, 2003) that won an award too. Suffice to say, it's fun to be back and engaged with a subject I care about.

In revisiting some of my writings, I've found most of the concepts are still valid, but the language needs updating. For example in the passage above, I would replace "church" now with "spiritual organization." In 2006, I posted Dad's Computer Rules, inspired by Vicki Davis's "11 Steps to Online Parental Supervision of your Children" on her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, Sept 16, 2006. Sensible and sensitive advice.

My updated list for my now grown son that I published in Learning Right From Wrong in the Digital Age reads:

Dad’s Household Computer Rules

  • Obey the law. I don’t have money for bail or fines.
  • Respect others’ privacy (and I will respect yours).
  • Do not give out ANY personal information about yourself or the family.
  • Be truthful about who you say you are in online communications.
  • Talk to me if anything about a website concerns or confuses you. I know that bad sites can be accessed accidentally.
  • Download and install software only with my permission. I mean it.
  • Be as smart, skeptical, and cautious online as you are elsewhere. NOBODY online wants to give you free money or needs your password to anything.
  • Do only those things you would do if I were watching you. I just might be.
  • Watch how much time you spend online. Too much and you'll go blinky and possibly psycho.
  • Be kind in your online interactions. Be thoughtful about what you say and share and post. A potential employer, a possible soul-mate, and your grandmother just might be reading.

As of this writing, my son at age 31 has never been arrested, seems to have fairly decent values, and hasn't been abducted by anyone. Oh, and he as a college degree, a job he loves, and a very nice girlfriend. Whew!

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