How many parents sit with their children while they surf the Internet?
How often do students send sexually suggestive pictures in e-mails or text messages? How much is taught in the classroom about online safety?
The Natrona County School District is one of four in the country to take part in a survey of parents, teachers and students to gather data about online behaviors. More than 30,000 students will be asked to participate in the survey, part of a two-year study about Internet-facilitated crimes from the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
All Natrona County students in grades six through 12 will receive a parental consent form next week. Students who return the form will be given a survey that asks about their computer use, perceptions about Internet dangers and experience with “sexting,” or sending sexually suggestive messages or photos.
The district volunteered for the survey, which is being funded by a federal grant, because of growing safety concerns with more students having district-issued computers, said Mark Antrim, district associate superintendent for facilities and technology. Every student in grades six through 12 will have a laptop next year.
“This district is committed to technology being part of our kids’ educations and we’re also committed to doing everything we can to keep all of our students safe,” Antrim said. “This is a way to find out what our students are doing using technology.”
Survey results won’t be linked to individuals and will be available to districts in the fall. The data will be used to create materials for anti-bullying training.
Sexting is sometimes considered a form of cyberbullying, or harassment through electronic means. Little research into cyberbullying has been conducted.
“The sole intent is to better understand what our students are doing and to help create a safe secure environment for our kids,” Antrim said.
The school district also hasn’t tracked cyberbullying crimes.
A new anti-bullying policy that includes sexting and cyberbullying with hazing and sexual harassment went into effect this year.
The district will continue to train school employees in the policy in the fall.
Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at 307-266-0593.