Monday, May 19, 2008

To catch a predator, aka "The Shame Game"

While reading the comments on a blog post by Pete Reilly on Ed Tech Journeys, I came across a link to an excellent article on the Columbia Journalism Review entitled "The Shame Game." It's a rather lengthy article, but, I feel, well worth your time if you believe that the online predator scare has been overhyped by NBC's "To Catch a Predator" program.

It turns out that the decoys employed by Perverted Justice have at times encouraged the so-called "predators." Here's a quote from the article: "Many express doubts about what they’re doing and have to be egged along a bit by the decoys, many of whom come off as anything but innocent children."

And later this: "That doesn’t mean Internet sex predators don’t exist, but Dateline heavily skews reality by devoting hour after hour of primetime programming to the phenomenon. As Poynter’s Tompkins notes: “Is there any other issue that’s received that much airtime? The question is whether the level of coverage is proportional to the actual problem.” "

Is it any wonder that parents are hypersensitive and that school administrators won't allow teachers to engage in Web 2.0 learning as cited by Pete in his blog post?

So what's the solution? Let's educate our students (and our parents) about the real dangers on the internet, but let's not allow the perceived threat to eliminate the wonderful learning opportunities that are now available. As Pete points out later in the comments section of his post, if we eliminate everything from our schools because of the potential for danger we'd never have field trips (strangers), sports (injuries), playgrounds (injuries, bullying)….

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