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The School governor - Digital world needs safety net

The technology to send words and pictures into homes around the world is here to stay. `Digital creativity', the title of a workshop at a recent national governors' associationQCA conference, left the audience spellbound as to the possibilities for interactive learning.

Watching videos of primary school children using personal digital assistants with global positioning system facilities, in the classroom and out in the field, underlined the enormous potential for learning.

But with technology comes the potential for misuse. Camera-phones with internet connections are common in secondary schools. Scroll the pages on Bebo, MySpace and similar websites and the potential for youngsters to harm themselves, their friends, their school and their family is apparent. Posting pictures is simple, removing them is not so easy, as a TV news item recently reported.

Bad language and semi-pornographic images of groups of partying teenagers flashed around the world is a matter for parental concern. The possibilities for videoing lessons, compromising school staff, and bullying other pupils are endless. Behaviour policy falls within the governing body's statutory remit. Yet how many governors or school staff have consulted these websites and recognised how their school could be exposed to world ridicule?

The first question must be: "Does the behaviour policy address cyber- bullying?"

We cannot turn back the clock, but we do need to raise the awareness of staff, parents and pupils about educating youngsters to use technology responsibly. We need to work with pupils to write a home-school agreement for the use of mobile phones, personal digital assistants and similar technology which all parents and pupils are asked to sign. Reviewing the behaviour policy and ensuring appropriate sanctions are in place for those who transgress is essential.

The challenge for governors is to embrace change, protect our youngsters from misuse and ensure the technology is used to enhance learning.

Carol Woodhouse, Chair of governors, Musbury Primary, Devon.

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