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Studying Internet Use

If you are studying the Internet as a tool, please take into consideration what the participants will be exposed to while using on the internet and how exposed they will be to internet predators. Evaluate the participants’ internet “street smarts” and take opportunity to educate the participants on internet safety practices.  You should consider how you will monitor the participants’ internet use (if necessary) and anticipate problems that may arise. For more information on web safety, check out www.safekids.com and www.blogsafety.com.

As a case example, the Board encountered a protocol where the researcher asked to study the effective of blogging versus writing a traditional journal on an ESL writing class.  One issue that the researcher encountered was how to inform parents, some of whom did not speak English and came from a diverse language background. Another issue was that blogging involves direct access to any internet user; the Board was concerned that someone with inappropriate intentions might try to contact a student or that a student would post information that could identify him or her to such an individual. In order to reduce these risks, the Board required that the researcher hold a parent/ student meeting so that the parents could be individually contacted about the study (with the help of their child’s interpretation).  The Board asked that internet safety rules be discussed with the students and parents, and that they be instructed as to what is appropriate to post online.  The Board also asked that the researcher monitor the blogs and online journals on a daily basis so that if something inappropriate occurred, it could be dealt with immediately.

The researcher provided feedback about the experience.  The meeting with parents and students proved successful and it was an opportunity to teach the students about internet safety, a tool they could use beyond the classroom.  However, despite the instruction, a small incident arose. The students were assigned to comment on a news article that they had read. One student commented on an article about teaching sex education in schools.  Though the student did not intend to post anything inappropriate, the student’s comments were problematic and the researcher promptly removed them. The researcher took the opportunity to discuss with the student why the comments were inappropriate, thus reinforcing the internet safety educational experience.

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