What would you do? Yet another lesson on internet safety? Talk to the parents?

While checking out a fairly new social network for teens, I stumbled upon the user page of one of my 6th grade elementary students. The page included her name, address and school, a few photos of her and her friends, other info and of course a list of her buddy network, many of whom are also my students, but some who are Middle School students aged 16+ (and who knows if they really are who they claim to be?) .
I am worried by the fact that she and some of the others had published information which would make it so easy for them to be the targets of predators. I have informed the school principal who suggested that next lesson I once again emphasize the dangers of publishing private information on the internet. We also intend to inform the parents at the upcoming parent teacher meetings.
I wonder if anyone has any original ideas as to a lesson on the subject, we have just recently finished a unit on internet safety and these students are the same ones who shout "yeah, yeah, we already know" and "we've spoken about it before"

Tags: advice, predators, privacy, safety, social networks, teens

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Hi Susan,
I'm impressed by your concern for your students' wellbeing. The web can be another dimension for people with ill intnetions to cause harm of some sort. I use the analogy with my students (I teach ICT to students from 5-12 yrs) "if someone pulled up in a car outside of school in a car you did not recognise, would you get in if they told you cause your parentas asked them to collect you?" Of course they answer no, looking at me as if I had 2 heads. I then make the connection to the web that by identifying oneself on myspace, blogs, homepages or chat rooms that is exactly what they're doing.
Unfortunately many young people think they're bullet proof. but if only one child is assisted by this then I've fulfilled a useful purpose.
Finally, as tchrs we can only do what you've done and what I've advocated- educating and informing children and parents. When comes down to it parents (not always teachers) are the ones who need to take an active responsibilty and interest and supervision of their children's access on the web.
At my school we have an acceptable use policy in the form of a contract. When kids sign the contract, they agree to follow the rules or have their computer privileges revoked. This might actually be more of punishment for you if your teaching depends heavily on computer use. But, it would get the message across. Maybe you could revoke privileges temporarily?
New research is out: kids who post info online are no more likely to be victims of sexualized violence as kids who do not post info online. In fact, in the United States, only 7% of statutory rape cases were initiated by online meetings. Additionally, most kids who meet online predators know that they are meeting adults for sexual activities. More on my blog. Really important info for those who are educating kids about these safety issues...
Thanks - I'll definitely take a look at your blog later today.
Hi Susan. In my computer class we talk about issues all the time, although they are not always sensible in real life (grade 10). I've taken the tactic that I don't want to be their Facebook friend because it violates their privacy, but I do want them to make sure that they have removed any identifying details, that they add only true friends and that they envoke their privacy settings. My students do PowerPoints about a social issue and some of them have conducted "tests" and discovered that total strangers will add them as friends (they delete them immediately) or that they can assume an identity and no one is the wiser.

I also keep reminding them that anything on the internet can be copied and pasted so even if they do have their Facebook page set to private, a "friend" can copy pictures or posts and forward them off to somebody else. Those "Think before you Post" videos are very effective.

I also like to discuss current cases and have them share their opinions. For example, there was a student teacher who was refused her teaching degree because she had posted an image of herself in a pirate hat, drinking, with a caption implying that she was "a drunken pirate." Even though the consensus was that the administration had overreacted, it was a good reminder that somewhere down the line, something could "come back to bite you."

Also, it's a good bet that your students are posting videos of themselves and maybe even of teachers on YouTube.
Last year, legislatures in both Virginia and California passed similarly worded bills that required districts to teach students, among other things, Internet Safety. Recently, the Virginia Department of Education published a nice PDF to assist districts with meeting the needs of their legislation. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/Technology/OET/internet-safety-gui...
The PDF includes specific sections addressed to parents, administrators, and teachers. it also includes a variety of great resource links, including the free web site, isafe http://www.isafe.org which has Internet Safety tutorials directed towards specific subgroups.

Here in California, we're in the middle of updating our "Guide for Education Technology Planning" to incorporate California's AB 307 requirements. In the meantime, though, CTAP REgion 4 has posted a variety of great resources at: http://www.ctap4.org/cybersafety/.

Just an observation, but has anyone noticed how much personal information have the members on *this site alone* have given out? And we're the ones teaching internet safety. I applaud your efforts to keep an eye out for safety for your students, but hammering one more lesson won't change your student's online behaviour. I also think that being part of a community is *wanting* people to know who you are and how you all connect. Please keep teaching safe computing. Model it too, but "just ONE MORE lesson" won't fix this issue.

Have you considered adding yourself as one of her friends/buddies? It's like throwing a party and having parents around. The more unsavoury elements tend to slink out of the room and the ones there for having fun, indeed have fun. Just my couple pennies worth...

I'm still learning cyber safety along with my kids. however, it seems to me that a fundemental problem is that we're not teaching our kids how to behave when we have a choke-hold on so many different aspects of their online learning. Yah, there's porn out there. Yah, there's also bad people out there.

Translate our behaviors to a less-cyber format: There are bad people outside our homes and schools, so you're not allowed to go play outside anywhere unless there's an adult present. We'll constantly do the looking out for you. Also, there are bad magazines and books out there, so you're not allowed to look at magazines unless I've provided them for you. And then, you can only look at the pages I've marked, to keep you on-task.

When are the kids going to be allowed **nay** expected/trusted/required to develop their own internal sense of safety? Unless we allow them to begin looking out for themselves; unless we begin to respect them more and take off our choke-holds, then they'll never learn. The school district in which I used to work has all these blocks on so many harmless sites, and the kids quite loudly scoff at those blocks. They very much disrespect the safety nets that have been set up. That frightens me. We have so many safety nets that we now have created a real need for kids to go home to do their work. Home. Where people may or may not be there to talk with the kids about right/wrong. Home. Where there are people living who may be visting some really bad sites and kids are seeing or even participating in learning this. Home. Where parents understand that schools have clearly designated PTO/PTAs and 2x a year as THE "communication times" (if they're lucky).

We MUST remove the choke hold, bring the ugly monster into the room with us, and openly talk about it's fangs, claws, and repercussions. Internet safety must be an ongoing real-time, actual practice. Realistic simulations MUST be created and enacted--regularly and without notice. It's not a lesson plan. It's a fire drill. "Have you heard? Last nite, something horrible happened to Mandy." Mandy stays at home that day, with prior planning with parents, administrators, etc. At the end of the day, the discussion is held (with Mandy back at school) that she was chosen as our model today because she gave out too much info. What would this school/our lives be like without her? There are bugs to be worked out, but it's something the kids--ESPECIALLY MANDY--won't forget.

We must begin to respect our students in this other-world, and they must trust us to help them--not as guardians, but as help-mates in this journey across the world.
Check out:
cfpmsparent.blogspot.com ( I have a lot of links on the right side of the blog)

Good Luck,
Robin Martin
Dear Susan
I agree that children need to be educated. Two quick points that I find useful when engaging young people.
1. Students seem to have 'switched off' to the trope regarding predators
2. Privacy and its value resonates very well.

I set them an exercise (and answers to these will be helpful):
Why should you be careful about disclosing the following information (and the steps you can take):
Name, address and school,
Photos and information of Friends

It is amazing what you learn about how children negotiate the 'predator' problem when dealing with the practical, step by step implications. See also the wonderful work by Finklehor
In fact, the predator/stranger-danger message diverts attention from more immediate concerns:
a. identity/image theft
b. cyberbullying

I also think a balance is needed. When I was a wee lad - I had private spaces: I did not realise then about the value of the 'right to be left alone'
I recently came across this passage from Alan Westin's Work, Privacy and Freedom p8:

“MAN LIKES TO think that his desire for privacy is
distinctively human, a function of his unique ethical,
intellectual, and artistic needs.”

“One basic finding of animal studies is that virtually all
animals seek periods of individual seclusion or small-
group intimacy.”

I'm wondering, perhaps you could create a task that is more student-centered rather than a lecture that would require them to report or investigate cases involving internet predators and teens. Like a blog where they not only do in-depth research on actual cases, but post it and share opinions with peers on the matter, and you could moderate. Would that help the message permeate?



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