No Response From Birmingham-Area Schools Concerning Chat Room Warnings

October 21, 1997
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Obligation sent a request/press release to each Birmingham-area school system that is still showing Channel One urging them to send home a warning to parents and students of the dangers of Internet chat rooms, especially the Channel One chat room since that is being advertised to students almost daily in school. So far, we have received no response from these school systems: Bessemer City, Fairfield City, Jefferson County, Midfield City, Shelby County, Tarrant City, and Vestavia Hills City.

Please link to our press release below for further information. This release resulted in two stories on our local news. First, Jim Metrock gave a follow-up to a WBRC Fox6 story on the alleged child predator that used chat rooms to entice local children. He was a vice-principal for a Birmingham-area high school. As Metrock talked the camera filmed the Channel One “Personal Ads” for kids message board. The tips Mr. Metrock gave for Internet safety can be found on Internet and Children.

Mr. Metrock was later featured on a WBMG CBS42 news report that centered solely on the problems with Channel One. “There are lots of chat rooms out there for kids, but the Channel One chat room is different. It’s the only one that the principal is telling the children to go to. There’s an implied endorsement by the school,” Metrock said.

There are more school administrators that understand the inappropriateness of Channel One being in a school, than do not. Most understand the dangers of repeatedly telling students to “go to channelone.com”, “Visit our chat rooms at channelone.com”. The October 16th Channel One broadcast opens up shamelessly with this silent text “Come chat with us at channelone.com”.

School board members, superintendents, and principals better hope few children take Channel One up on their offer. Channel One gets Internet visitors only through their relentless ads during school time. Percentage-wise very few children will probably see these school-run ads for channelone.com. However, every child that becomes a channelone.com visitor, chat room member, a “Personal Ads” user, or who posts their picture for “Fresh Faces” did so because some school, somewhere ran the commercials for Channel One’s web site.

By promoting the use of Channel One’s chat room (actually there are several Channel One chat rooms, we’ll talk about that at another time), school systems are encouraging the use of chat rooms in general. “Don’t block my use of chat rooms, Mom, the school says it’s OK.” (Reminder: Although Channel One is specifically intended for teenagers, many schools show the TV show to 6th and 7th grade pre-teens.)

Unfortunately, like so many things, a disaster will be the only thing to shake awake some school systems. These systems are all run by well-intended, caring people who have devoted their lives to other people’s children. But when it comes to commercial exploitation of their schoolchildren, they just don’t get it. They also, apparently, do not fully appreciate the dangers of the Internet for children.

Let’s hope these “I Want My Channel One” school board members, superintendents, and principals know something the rest of us don’t.

 

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