Dear Students, Parents/Guardians, and Friends of Herron High School,

Technological skills are an important part of college preparedness. We have received consistent feedback from our graduates attending colleges and universities that the digital requirements and knowledge required at college are significant, also, the Indiana Department of Education plans to transition to computer-based standardized tests. We understand the importance in training our students for the digital demands that are an essential skill in their academic success.    Thus, it is critically important that your family signs and turns in the Technology and Acceptable Use Policy.

The use of technology provides opportunities to teach students about safety and responsibility in a digital environment. While access to many social networking sites is blocked on our network, internet access is widespread in public places as well as the home. A survey of Herron students last year showed that 95% of students had internet access in the home. Students without internet in the home are accessing it at the home of friends, at internet cafes and at libraries.  Studies have also revealed that 85% to 95% of American teens have a Facebook page, and a new report released last month by Nielson finds that among teens between the ages of 13 and 17 who own a cell phone, more than half of those teens own a smartphone, and therefore have round the clock internet access and texting capabilities.

In this unprecedented age of access, teaching our teens to be safe and responsible online is a community wide effort shared by our families as well as our school… Herron students have reviewed the Acceptable Use Policy in their advisories, and in the coming months will continue to review the policies through Socratic discussions. Digital responsibility will be emphasized and reiterated through lesson plans throughout the year, including responsible and legal use of creative content, the power and pitfalls of social networking, the potential impact of irresponsible behavior on a student’s future, and how to distinguish legitimate fact-based information and research from undocumented opinion.

We have several suggestions to help parents navigate the many options to help protect students from making poor decisions while accessing the internet off campus. Herron High School recognizes that families have different perspectives on internet use, and that while some see benefits to allowing social networking, others feel it is inappropriate for their child. Some thoughtful planning and family discussions about internet usage will help parents determine what level of access is appropriate for their student.

All internet providers allow clients to establish restrictions on home networks. Because each provider’s child safety program is different, parents are encouraged to review their provider’s options. If you do not know how to access these settings, contact our HelpDesk.  You must identify your service provider, and every effort will be made to help you set up restrictions.

Here are a few measures that we encourage our families to take:

  • Require that your student use their device or family computer in a common room of your home, and monitor what your student is doing.
  • Require that your student put away their device and mobile phone at a pre-selected time each evening.
  • If your student maintains social networking sites, insist that they use privacy setting on their pages to restrict access to friends only, and that they friend you so you are able to monitor their activities and interactions with others.
  • Don’t allow your student to take their device to a friend’s house or anywhere out of the home if not headed to school.
  • If you are concerned that retiring the device at the appointed time is insufficient, turn off your wireless router to prevent late night access to the internet, but keep in mind that this is not applicable to 3G or 4G smartphones.
  • Using your internet provider’s child safe program, set parameters using key words to block sites or internet search returns you feel are inappropriate for your family. Keep in mind that these types of blocks prevent legitimate information as well as dangerous content, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages thoughtfully.
  • Engage the whole family in a discussion about our Acceptable Use Policies to reinforce the ongoing discussions at school.
  • Remind your student that uploading personal content or photos online carries significant risks, and that regardless of privacy settings, there is no foolproof way to prevent unintended viewers from seeing material. Ask your student to consider how they would feel if his/her mother, a friend’s mother, a boss, his/her pastor, or a member of Herron High School’s leadership team saw the page, and to evaluate the wisdom of sharing content based on the presumption that this is likely. It IS likely, as some of our students could testify after making a thoughtless choice.

Our Technology program is, like all of our programs, an evolving process rooted in research-based best practices. We will make every effort to keep parents engaged and informed as technology presents new opportunities and challenges, both in the home and on campus.

Sincerely,

Janet H. McNeal

Head of School

Complete newsletter here: 9.13.2014HHS