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Is the use of Internet in classrooms helping kids?

        Tech | Tech for Kids

The Debate

With so much information, media, news and data, plus with answers so easy to come by, what could possibly go wrong?

Apparently, enough to cause concern. According to some experts, classroom Internet isn't all hearts and flowers. They point to two main issues -- distraction and safety -- as reasons to look very closely at, and possibly limit, Web access in schools.

The argument against flooding children with technology is nothing new. If anything, it has gathered steam in the last few years, with TV aimed at infants and cell phones designed to withstand the rigors of the playground. Some believe all this technology is affecting kids' attention spans and their ability to focus. There are those who worry that Internet access can end up being more of a distraction than a learning tool in the classroom, with games and music and Facebook as easy to come by as population counts. They even fear that math and spelling may fall by the wayside, replaced by the stimulating Web.

The bigger concern, though, focuses on more nefarious types of content that are pretty simple to access, too: pornography, hate speech and sexual solicitation via social networking sites. The fear that inappropriate and potentially harmful content can invade the classroom, a traditionally safe space for kids, is a real and enduring one, and schools have been forced to address it.

The imperfect answer arrives in the form of filtering software, which denies access to explicit content. Most schools now employ this type of software, but many claim it doesn't solve the problem. For one thing, it can miss some inappropriate content; for another, it can accidentally block entirely appropriate, educational Web sites.

The software has a way to go, and most educators acknowledge the possible drawbacks of bringing the Internet into the classroom. But few believe the downsides can even remotely match the benefits to kids' learning scope, interest levels and overall engagement in lessons. The solution appears to be a simple one: A surfing student is a supervised student. There's no better way to keep kids safe and on-track than to watch closely: If "Papua New Guinea" appears to be spelled "b-o-o-b-s," there's something wrong.

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