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Simfin

esafety and digital citizenship specialist

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Lazy messages

11.05.17

Until adults move on from the dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children.

Ask children and young people about the esafety messages they’ve been told by parents, carers and teachers and they will mumble with disdain:

‘Never share personal information online’

‘Never talk to someone online who you’ve not met in ‘the real world’.’

‘Tell a trusted adult if you are worried.’

‘If you are being bullied online then just turn off your device and go outside and play with real friends.’

Too many parents, and adults responsible for young people, reinforce messages that are glib, meaningless and underpinned by; ‘I don’t know anything about this new stuff – I just wish they would ban Facebook.’

If we are to accept we have a role to provide guidance and support for young people in our care then we must be much more proactive in developing our own knowledge and understanding of social media and online opportunities and challenges. Similarly we must be seen by our young people to model appropriate behaviour and to empathise with young people rather than make false distinctions between ‘the online world’ and ‘the real world.’

Let’s look at the e-safety messages we‘ve been feeding our children.

 

‘Never Share Personal Information Online’


How does this make any sense? We need to share personal information every day and we frequently offer Amazon and similar, our home address, bank details and other personal information. If we accept that ‘1 in 4 adults met their partner online’, then surely as parents and teachers we need to provide young people with advice and guidance on when and how to share personal information? Until we help children understand the cost benefits of sharing personal information, they will continue to be misinformed about how and when to share.

 

‘Never Talk To Someone Online Who You’ve Not Met In ‘The Real World’.’


Many of us who use social media for our professional development and hobbies and interests will recognise that sharing ideas and experiences with strangers across the world has real benefits and can enhance our professional and personal lives. Surely we should be providing students with opportunities to communicate with ‘strangers’ by bringing online interactions, linked to curriculum work, into our classrooms?

 

‘Tell A Trusted Adult If You Are Worried.’


I think we can sometimes be a little too quick to assume a child will have a trusted adult. We assume, if they have two parents, they can speak to them, or that they will by default, tell their class teacher or key worker. Some children may not feel comfortable telling their mother but they may tell a friend’s mother. Some may not wish to discuss issues and concerns with their current teacher but perhaps their previous teacher? We shouldn’t underestimate the role of lunchtime supervisors and librarians. Often these people see and speak to the children every day and are seen as more trustworthy than some of their other relationships with adults.

A child needs a choice of trusted adults and we should make sure every child knows who their personal preference trusted adult is, before they are at that crisis point when they really need them.

‘If You Are Being Bullied Online Then Just Turn Off Your Device And Go Outside And Play With Real Friends.’
Until adults move on from this dismissive and patronising position of ‘the online world isn’t real or valid’ we will continue to fail in the quality of the support we offer our children. Young people and many of us who are adults see our online interactions to be important and often more valid than face to face interactions. Social media is social. Young people want and need to be part of the interactions and this is where many will gain their sense of self worth. It may be difficult for some parents and teachers to comprehend but for many of us, online relationships can be better, more rewarding and more caring than the face to face interactions of school and home.

For those who work with, and care for, young people there is something you can do. Take control of your own learning and understanding of this important area of a child’s development. Use social media to engage and learn from others.

location location location

11.05.17

Many esafety messages are not fit for purpose, leave our young people with little guidance and reinforce their belief that we, as adults, are failing them.

We’ve looked at ‘Never share personal information’ previously and here we will consider again how this message is lazy, ill thought through and without value.

We have to share personal information if we are to function in our analogue face to face communities, and we teach our children from a very young age when and how to share personal information.
As parents we have always helped our children to have a healthy sense of mistrust and caution when it comes to sharing personal information. Indeed we spend a lot of time threatening children not to tell strangers in the street their names or addresses. As a boy my parents repeatedly told me that If I answered the home telephone I must never say ‘My mum and dad are not at home.’ Instead we were given strategies to withhold such information saying instead ’My mum isn’t available at present, can I take a message?’

There is also research and evidence to suggest that increasing numbers of adults meet their partners online via social media and dating sites. If this is the case then what are we doing as parents, carers and teachers to prepare our children for online relationships?

It is not clear why so many adults fail to see that they must spend time and effort helping their children to learn new digital citizenship skills and strategies to keep safe. This is a process that should take place every day, at every opportunity and not to be left to one esafety lesson a year at school.

We need to help our children develop the skills and experience to understand the costs and benefits of sharing elements of our, and other people’s personal information online.

If we shop online then we need to share our address and our payment and bank details. Clearly for many of us, the risks are outweighed by the benefits of goods and services delivered directly to our physical or digital location. It is also a useful point to debate and consider whether we should share our personal preferences and shopping habits with our major supermarkets. I currently take the view that I’m comfortable with Sainsbury’s knowing what I purchase if this means I receive more focused and appropriate advertising and promotions. I take a less positive view of companies further sharing my personal information to third party and unrelated companies. Nevertheless, anything that allows me to be a more effective purchaser of the things I need can be seen as a benefit with a cost I’m prepared to bear.. at present.

At the time of writing, many in my social networks are enjoying holidays and this leads to oversharing of actual and imminent location or ourselves and others. It is understandable to want to share good news;

‘I’m going on holiday to Spain!’
‘Can’t wait!’
‘2 weeks!’
‘3 more sleeps..’

And ofcourse once we’re on our holidays we post beautiful pictures of views, food and our loved ones;

‘Love this place.’
‘last night in paradise’
‘View from my plane seat of rainy Heathrow, England’

When I work with children and young people I ask; ‘Where do burglars live?’ and we eventually conclude that somebody in our social network must inevitably know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who will burglar our home while we are on holiday. Logic dictates that posting personal information about location will increase the likelihood that we will be victims of crime.

It’s also worth noting that there is increasing evidence that insurance companies will not compensate our losses if they can prove that we broadcast when we would be away from our homes via social media..
The idea that we avoid ‘broadcasting’ when our homes would be unoccupied is not a new one. For many of us who were around pre social media and internet, we employed strategies including, not cancelling deliveries of bread and milk, not telling the (never to be trusted and much maligned taxi driver) our destination or length of stay and the cunning, if pointless, partial closing of curtains.

In this digital age surely each of us must be more guarded in the way we share not only our own personal information and details, but those too of our family, friends and contacts? It’s not difficult, it just takes a little more care and a little more effort.. oh, and not blaming young people for the mistakes that we as adults model every day.

09 January 2015

A teenager writes; 'I read technology articles quite often and see plenty of authors attempt to dissect or describe the teenage audience, especially in regards to social media. However, I have yet to see a teenager contribute their voice to this discussion. This is where I would like to provide my own humble opinion.'

You can read more Here

17 October 2014

 'It's normal for teens to sext.

I used to think finding my kids sexting would be one of my worst parental nightmares. But not anymore..'

 

This article may help parents and carers understand sexting and provide more appropriate support for their children.

 

Read the article

23 September 2014

If you want to understand the future of humanity – where we're headed, who'll be in charge, and exactly how worried you should be about that – you could do worse than begin with two unremarkable buildings, on opposite coasts of the US. The more famous one, half a mile from Google's main campus in Mountain View, California, is home to Google X, the search giant's purportedly secret research lab.

Read the article

07 July 2014

 

A thought provoking article by Graham Brown-Martin - keynote speaker at upcoming digitallyconfidentconference.org

When viewed through the prism of "network capitalism" Facebook's recent acquisition of WhatsApp for $19bn looks like good value.

The consensus is that Facebook acquired the company because it was fearful of losing its grip on the youth market, who favoured mobile communications, to a system that apparently their parents didn't use. And, as a theory has it, with the world shifting to mobile internet it only makes sense for Facebook to demonstrate its chops in the mobile world. This might also account for why it acquired Instagram...

 

Read the full article here.