Although many young people believe that the information they post on Social Networking Sites are private they are not! Students do not seem to realize that these web sites are public places and that posting a user profile goes out to the public in general with sometimes too much private information about themselves.
According to the article, Social-Networking Web Sites Pose Growing Challenge for Educators(Feb. 2006), these sites have given rise to issues that leach into schools in ways that can be worrisome. The author, Andrew Trotter goes on to say that concern is running high that students are posting information that exposes them to invasions of privacy and safety threats. School bullies can turn to social-networking pages as a way to torment their victims. He states that on occasion, students have anonymously created pages-often with humorous intent-that purport to be those of prinicpals or teachers.
Issues like these often result in schools filtering or blocking social networking sites in Calgary. However, students still have access when they are at home or can sometimes get around filters says Trotter through different web sites like www.letmeby.com and www.unblocmysite.com.
Schools are encouraged to include lessons on safety and security of SNS and most do. The Federal Trade Commission under Consumer Protection gives a short and useful list of reminders for staying safe on Social Networking Sites. The FTC suggests these tips for socializing safely online for tweens and teens. The list would be beneficial for teachers to use when talking with their students.
Parents need to also be educated the on ways of talking to their child about the internet and what signs to look for if there may be issues. A sidebar on the article, The MySpace Culture (Dec. 2007) discusses the warning signs for parents to be aware of from the Attorney General in the United States;
- spending large amounts of time online, especially late at night
-turning off the computer quickly when adults come into the room
-becoming upset when asked to see what they are doing online
-receiving phone calls, mail or gifts from unknown adults
-making long distance calls using an online account belonging to someone else
From the Heyjude blog of librarian Judy O'Connell, she directs the reader to an article posted in The Guardian (March 25, 2008) warning parents that children are being raised online and concerns about the content they can access and their lack of awareness of parents of what their children are doing on the internet. The Guardian (March 3, 2008) also reported on the results of a survey about the effect of SNS and homework. Apparently, British students are spending less time doing homework then they use to as a result of their use of Social Networking Sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. It would be interesting if a similar survey could be done here in Canada and what the results might be!
"Social networking presents challenges for us in schools that we have not seen with any of the previous waves of technology." (Social Networking: A New Tech Tool and a New Security Concern for Teens and Schools - May/Jun 2006) SNS are having a huge impact on schools because of the ways in which some students have used them. This article discusses that when students post information on these sites for the world to see, it makes it available to predators. The author, Joanne Barrett mentions the disappearance and subsequent murder of a young girl who had kept a blog on MySpace. As Barrett says it give one pause to think that her thoughts and feelings were recorded for the whole world, including her future killer, to see on MySpace. Barrett goes on to say that another concern is online harassement. Incidences and reports of cyber bullying are on the rise and the ability to use SNS for bullying has intensified.
There have been cases where students have been suspended and expelled from schools due to information posted on their SNS. Even when applying for a job, employers have been known to check SNS for information on potential candidates. Having an inappropriate picture or posting content that is inappropriate may cost you a potential job or the current job you have.
In my opinion Barrett does an excellent job of summing up on how I feel about the security issues of Social Networking Sites. She says the educators have long held the belief that technology is here to stay and the educating our students to the wise use of technology makes the most sense. The successful adults of the future will be those who know how to incorporate the use of technology into all areas of their lives. While we have gained the ability to have instant information and sharing at our fingertips, we still need to educate students on how to use these tools wisely.