Do you know what your kids are doing online? More important, does their school know?
With the weather dictating an indoor recess, 30 grade-seven students are passing the time in their Mississauga, Ont., Catholic school classroom. Eager for a much-deserved break, the teacher slips down to the staff room for a cup of coffee - and as soon as he's safely out of sight, the students lunge for the four classroom computers in a ritual reminiscent of musical chairs.
Within seconds, hyperfast fingers crawl keyboards in search of "hot" social-networking websites.
"Are you supposed to be on that site?" I ask anyone who will listen.
"Yeah," the ringleader replies. "They've blocked a bunch of them, but not this one."
"This one" is a personal website called tdotwire.com. The anxious faces of those congregated at the computers tell me all I need to know. Navigating any online social network is strictly off-limits - but only if you're caught.
Enter the domain of generation 2.0. Found in classrooms across the country, these resourceful and digitally "gifted" students have grown up wired and connected. As a media literacy instructor and an online safety expert for Microsoft, I've spent the past seven years hanging with many of these students, discussing, debating and tracking their love affair with technology.
But with that passion have come problems: cyber-bullying, accessing inappropriate content on school or home computers, password theft, text messaging in the classroom, snapping questionable pictures with camera phones - the list goes on. And schools are charged with managing it all.