Hidden Dangers of Cyber Education

Anything attached to the word “education” once sounded positive. Special education, the ‘No Schools Left Behind’ educational policy, and online education, now referred to as ‘cyber-education,’ all depicted attempts to reach all people who needed to increase their skills to compete in today’s workforce. Yet problems that once existed in classrooms, such as cyber-bullying and electronic harassment are now commonplace in all levels of cyber-education, from elementary school through college. Crucial problems exist at all levels and need to be addressed very quickly.

The main types of problems are with bullying and sexual solicitation. Other cyber-related issues may manifest in obsessive game-playing. For example, a 15-year old girl committed suicide after a battle with cyber bullying for many years. Todd was asked to flash her chest in front of a webcam when she was in the 7th grade. After that, the picture went viral, showing up all over the Internet. Her friends started to bully her in school about the pictures, even though she switched schools twice. She wound up depressed and panic-stricken, destroyed by some “pictures that she could never take back.”

This demonstrates how cyber-bullying is different from school ground bullying. Once pictures or other scandalous information appears on the Internet, everyone has access: there is no escape. School ground bullying, although hard to detect, can be alleviated by the person being bullied. Bullying in classrooms among girls is often subtle, yet can be controlled. Cyber-education provides a portal of new challenges that students and parents face.

Hacking, for example, represents one threat of getting information from another’s computer while the students appear to be innocently working on an assignment. This information can be used later on for cyber-bullying as well as DOS (Denial of Service) attacks that can prevent the students from accomplishing their educational goals.

Can all classes be effectively taught online? For example, one high school has an online gym class. Will the students effectively gain the skills and the overall exercise that is needed from classes taught in this manner? Perhaps other subjects, such as English or History could be taught online but there are subjects that need direct student – teacher relationships to effectively learn how to apply these skills.

Cyber-education has many pitfalls. Yet, with proper cooperation between teachers and parents these dangers can potentially be avoided. Parents can better control their children’s use of computers by using servers operated by reputable companies that can block many websites that are potentially dangerous, such as OpenDNS. Contracts can be made between students and teachers as to which websites they are allowed to gather information for assignments. Wikipedia is very popular yet frequently provides misleading or erroneous information. Finally, education about cyber-bullying and sexual exploitation needs to be taught to students in schools before they begin to use computers. Cyber-education can be beneficial, but proper precautions must be made.