Kids, do you know what an IP address does?

When it comes to student behavior on the Web, adolescents behave in a manner that suggests a lack of awareness that anyone could find out what they are doing online. I try to combat this with a simple lesson about IP addressing.

Kids, you are not anonymous on the Internet, because there’s this identifier called an IP address. On some networks, it positively identifies you (we assign IP reservations on our wireless network). On others, it provides a temporary identifier that can be used to track one’s network activity, the pattern of which may identify you. Our wireless network, web sites, and email system automatically track user activity in this way. I’m not even getting into browser cookies and corporate tracking of user click patterns.

When unsupervised, children may behave poorly, unaware that they could be held accountable for their actions. This is akin to the parents going away for the weekend and leaving the child at home, perhaps with the car keys! An awareness of system logs and IP addresses may encourage children to behave better. Alternately, it could encourage them to become more skilled at hiding their identity on the Internet. I like to think that behavior would improve for most students.

Can anyone point me toward an empirical study that would help me more deeply understand this psychological dynamic in children?

One comment

  1. David says:

    This is I think a case where using Kohlberg is appropriate,…‘s_stages_of_moral_development

    at least in terms of understanding WHY kids will act like they are anonymous online.

    It’s important to note that when kids are publishing photos of themselves, etc… I think they are just following a different set of moral rules than their parents generation. So the problem isn’t just that their moral reasoning is immature, it’s also that they are using a slightly different set of guidelines.