Today I had an email forwarded to me that told about the Illinois legislator sponsoring the social networking bill, Matt Murphy, hosting an online chat to talk about social networking. The chat will take place via his blog tonight from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Now, think about this. He’s hosting a discussion about the legislation using the technology that he’s trying to ban from schools and libraries. What if a teacher wanted students to participate in order to learn about the legislative process and the only place the student could access the technology to participate is in the library? Ooops, if the bill were passed the teen wouldn’t be able to finish his homework.

And, isn’t it simply ironic that someone who is trying to ban social networking is using social networking to talk about the issues? Seems to me this is an example of how the technology is a good way to network with others, find out what people are thinking, and answer questions. Maybe this online chat will help the legislator figure that out.

BTW, the email forwarded to me was originally sent by the Illinois Library Association. Within the message there was a great list of talking tips for talking to legislators about social networking. Here’s what they are: (Thanks to ILA for permission to post.)

Talking Points
ILA supports the goal of protecting children from online predators. One of the primary concerns of the library community is the safety of children. We know that the best way to protect children is to teach them to guard their privacy and make wise choices. To this end, libraries across the state offer instruction on safe Internet use.

1) Education, not laws blocking access, is the key to safe use of the Internet. Libraries and schools are places where kids learn essential information literacy skills that go far beyond computer instruction and Web searching. Indeed, Senate Bill (SB) 1682 would block usage of these sites in the very environments where librarians and teachers can instruct students on how to use all kinds of applications safely and effectively and where kids can learn to report and avoid unsafe sites.

2) Limiting access to social networking sites in schools and libraries will have little impact on the overall problem since young people access these collaborative sites from many locations and over a period of time. If children are going to get into trouble online, chances are it won’t be at school or at the library. They’ll be home, they’ll be at a friend’s house, or they could even be using their mobile phones completely apart from adult supervision. Schools and libraries are relatively protected environments where adults are never far away and, for the most part, computers are in public locations that make it difficult for users to hide what they’re doing.

3) While seeking to protect children from predators, Senate Bill (SB) 1682 would impact a wide range of social networking sites that are used daily by millions of Americans. Senate Bill (SB) 1682 is much too broad. It proposes to block access to beneficial
collaborative Web applications and resources.

4) Senate Bill (SB) 1682 ignores the value of interactive Web application. New Internet-based applications for collaboration, business, and learning are becoming increasingly important, and young people must be prepared to thrive in a work environment where meetings take place online, and where online networks are essential communication tools.

5) Local decision making — not state law — is the way to solve the problems addressed by Senate Bill (SB) 1682.

6) Senate Bill (SB) 1682 would restrict access to technology in the communities that need public access most. Senate Bill (SB) 1682 denies the students and library users in schools and libraries in the poorest communities from accessing appropriate content and from learning how best to safely manage their own Internet access in consultation with librarians and teachers.

7) School officials note they are faced with a new problem of monitoring students’ and teachers’ use of the Internet on personal laptops on school grounds.

8) Libraries do need help to accelerate their efforts to provide Internet and information literacy education and safety programs for kids, teens, parents, and caregivers. If people were more well informed about social networking sites and knew and used basic Internet safety tips, the cloud of fear may decline and that success rate for sexual predators will be dramatically reduced. We need your help, Senator Matt Murphy, in funding an educational campaign now. Will you support us?

ILA also published DOPA and the Participation Gap which is a useful read.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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