Daylene Lauman's interest in students' Internet use goes back many years, but the sexual assault of one of her students by someone the student met on a chat room motivated Lauman to study computer use among junior high school students.
Lauman, a teacher at Ottewell School in Edmonton, undertook a survey of students' computer use as part of her doctorate. Her study of junior high students in a large urban centre in Alberta points to what a growing body of research confirms: Internet and computer use is pervasive in schools and homes, but a gap is growing between what parents think their children are doing online and what their children are actually doing. Lauman's survey found that the digital gap is characterized by the following:
- Parents believe their children are more computer literate than they are.
- Parents believe their children (junior high students) use home computers for academic purposes. (Lauman found that many students see the computer as a recreational device.)
- Parents rely on informal spot-check supervision of their children's computer use. (Lauman found that only seven percent of parents have content filters on their home computers.)
- Parents have a reasonable level of computer expertise but need guidance assisting their children to use home computers in a safe and appropriate manner.
- Junior high students use the Internet safely, although many divulge personal information online. (Lauman found that five percent of students reported meeting in person people they met online.)
Although most of the media's attention is focused on the role that computers play in classrooms, Lauman's research shows that the issues related to the digital gap are not owned solely by schools. Given the pervasiveness of computers and digital communications outside the school's walls, a joint effort is needed between schools and community partners in promoting safe and appropriate use of technologies for students from elementary through to senior high school.
To this end, the ATA Computer Council (ATACC) has undertaken a campaign devoted to netiquette and web awareness. The campaign, "It's all about making good connections," began with the launch of a poster and teacher guide at ATACC's annual conference in May. An online teachers' guide supporting classroom use of the poster, an online parent guide and print brochure, and the poster will be distributed to schools through the ATA's September 25 school mailing. For information, please visit the ATACC website ( [site no longer available] ).
A summary of Lauman's study is available at http://ottewell.epsb.ca/execsum.pdf or by contacting her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .