I can’t believe what I’ve just read regarding Portland schools and limits on their laptops. If what I’m hearing is correct, the reasoning behind this is wrong.

While E-Rate does state that inappropriate sites must be blocked, that is only on school grounds. There is nothing in the E-Rate policy that says the school must overstep its bounds and block usage at home.

E-Rate policy also dictates that there must be a digital citizenship course to help students learn about being good online citizens.

Portland schools seem to be counting on the public to not be educated about what the policy actually says. It appears they are attempting to garner support based on the fear of more funding cuts.

As the technology support leader at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham and the step-parent of a 13-year-old, I am wholly against schools filtering Internet access at home.

It is not in the purview of the school to invade homes and make decisions or rules. We at the schools are not their parents.

I can hear the argument now: “How are parents supposed to control these devices if there aren’t any controls on them?”

Rules and conversation.

Create rules around the use of the device in the home, where it can be used, when it can be used and consequences for inappropriate use.

If your student has a difficult time putting the laptop down, take it into your room at night so they don’t use it without your knowledge. Make sure they use it in the living room or kitchen or other location that’s public when they are using it.

Make their homework space the kitchen table instead of hiding in their room.

Talk to your child about what they’re doing in school, who said what on Facebook and how things are going.

Use the built-in Web history viewer to start a discussion on the sites children are visiting and how they are using the Internet. Make it a learning experience for parents and children.

The Web history viewer is located in the applications folder and retains a complete record of all the sites your student has visited, even if your student clears the browsing history on the browser.

The very idea that this gives parents “more control over student computer use” is an absolute falsehood.

These limits provide a false sense of security, making it easier for children to do things online through various channels that parents suddenly believe is impossible because of supposed limits.

Instead of teaching responsibility, we only end up teaching sneakiness and deceit. This is not the way to treat our children. We cannot afford to find the lazy man’s way around helping children to learn responsibility and good decision-making.

There are many ways around the proposed blocks and knowledge of these work-arounds will spread like wildfire.

My 13-year-old can find ways around things like that if he really wants to.

But we always talk to him about what he’s doing on the computer, he makes use of the computer in public areas and we set a time limit on how long he can use the computer for non-educational purposes (two hours a day).

Yes, this requires extra work on our part. But in the end we know he’s making correct use of the technology he has in hand and makes good decisions regarding his behavior online.

On his 13th birthday, when he was allowed to join Facebook, he said, “I’m just blocking everybody from seeing anything I post unless I know them.”

We didn’t even have to tell him to do that, he just announced it.

We also require that he provide us with passwords for all his accounts. Facebook, email and anything else that he has an account for, we have a password for.

And we check in on things from time to time, but never without his knowledge.

The same approach isn’t going to work for everybody.

There isn’t a blanket solution for this kind of thing, which is why each household needs to make its own decisions on how to control the computers.

What I can say is that sitting down with your child and talking about what they do online frequently and helping them learn about good decision-making when on the Internet will do far more than paper-thin limits that these kids will blast through without breaking a sweat.

It’s extra parenting work, but when have we Mainers ever been afraid of a little extra hard work?