School districts across the province are taking different approaches to when and how students access internet services. File photo

South Okanagan students can still access social media

Local school districts have different approaches to student internet access

High school students in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows may have found themselves cut off from social media when they returned to class this month, but the Okanagan Skaha School District has a different approach.

Related: B.C. school district blocks access to social media in the classroom

“We’ve mostly focused our energies on educating kids on how to use the Internet responsibly,” said superintendent Wendy Hyer. “I haven’t really heard from teachers about it being an issue.”

Linda van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board, said student use of the Internet hasn’t come up as an overall issue.

“We’ve had moments where kids have accessed the wrong sites. But they are just moments we have been made aware of, and that is over years,” said van Alphen. “I can’t see that it is a huge problem. We sort of rely on our teachers to monitor it.

“We wanted to invite kids in to use it (the internet) more but to use it in a responsible way. Our policy is quite detailed in what it says,” said Van Alphen.

In the Okanagan Similkameen School District, board chair Bev Young said the question of internet access is handled on a school-by-school basis, and two schools have experimented with controlled access.

“We don’t ban it completely, they have configured their wireless network around opening it up during breaks and before and after school, but having it closed during class time,” said Young. In the case of South Okanagan Secondary School, she added, the move came as a result of a student forum.

“They were talking about things that are enhancing learning. Kids were admitting they were having difficulty self-regulating,” said Young. “In the end, there are a lot of workarounds if kids really want to.”

Hyer said the only time internet use becomes an issue for administrators is when it comes to cyberbullying, and keeping an open system has proved to be an aid in that case.

“Kids are pretty good when they see a Snapchat or something where they see a student threatening another student,” said Hyer. “There is usually a few students that come forward to let administrators know. It has resulted in a little more work for administrators, but not in a bad way.”

You can have a closed system, she explains, where kids aren’t comfortable telling adults about anything they see or you can have an open system where students are comfortable with active participation.

“They know that if they report, it’s all around student safety, it’s about getting support for kids,” said Hyer. “It’s not meant as a way of getting kids in trouble. It’s a way of making sure nothing bad happens.“

Technology is here to stay, Hyer said, and there is a push for being able to bring your own device to school and being able to use it to look up knowledge.

“Knowledge is at your fingertips,” said Hyer. “The focus now is how to use that knowledge in a responsible way. All of those skills you need to be a wise consumer and a critical thinker.”

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