Protecting Children in Cyberspace: A Higher Education Case Study




Lantzy, James Earl

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The Internet provides students with a multitude of resources for learning, communicating, and entertainment. Children should develop skills to identify not only good information but biases, misinformation, and safety and security threats. All children should understand how to protect themselves online, their personal information when engaging with others online, and the potential consequences of their actions in online information sharing through social networking sites, e-mail, gaming, and instant messaging to name a few. To this end, the Virginia Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology produced Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools (October 10, 2006) which requires all K-12 schools to integrate an Internet safety component into each school division’s instructional program. This case study reviewed the collaboration efforts of one higher education institution’s effectiveness in assisting the middle school education community in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg City schools through a community partnership with the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, James Madison University (JMU), and the Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County school districts. This collaboration centered on whether higher education (with JMU serving as a subject matter expert in information security education), and its K-12 resource Cyber Citizenship for Kids Guide, could lead a grassroots community-centered campaign for Internet safety and provide a solution which met the requirements of these Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools as outlined by the Commonwealth for their K-12 community. To achieve this end, middle school teachers, school administrators, instructional technology resource teachers (ITRT), counselors, resource officers, school media specialists, JMU staff, and Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology staff participated in a combination of surveys, interview questionnaires, and telephone and personal interviews. This research determined that this community partnership on cyber safety education between higher education and K-12 institutions in Rockingham County and Harrisonburg was perceived by stakeholders as feasible and effective. Several aspects of this county-wide community partnership effort to enhance K-12 cyber safety awareness can serve as a credible statewide model in providing Internet safety education to K-12 throughout the Commonwealth.



Cyber ethics, K-12 Collaboration, Higher education, Internet Safety, Virginia Guidelines, Cyberspace