Social media and reputation preservation!


This week Victorian media has been alive with the news of AFL (Australian Football League) recruit, Jake Carlisle, shown in a social media video where he appears to be snorting a line of white powder.  Leaked to the general media a day after he’d been signed to a new football club, this video actually came from the footballer’s own mobile phone and was distributed via his own SnapChat account.  A thoughtless action that has exposed his behaviour to the world and tarnished his reputation forever.

This is just one of the incidents our Year 9 Coordinator and I discussed today as we planned a digital citizenship program for Year 9 boys.  It’s essential that students have the opportunity to learn these skills.  To be effective, however, lessons should not be solely instruction or a one-off presentation from a visiting speaker, but should include time for students to have conversations with their peers.  They need time to exchange experiences and to clarify their own held beliefs if the message is to ‘stick’.

Enhancing Online Safety is the new website of the Australian Government – Office of the eSafety Commissioner.  It replaces the very popular ACMA Cyber[Smart] website and includes all the materials from that site.  This is an excellent resource for teaching digital citizenship to students at any year level.  Lesson plans and resources are organised in age-appropriate categories with videos and linked descriptions.

For example, the page Games, apps and social media: quick guide to social media sites and apps has links to 50+ sites popular with young people.  Knowledge and open discussion is easier when backed by quality information and this new site is a wealth of information.  Voluntary teacher certification is also available and will appeal to teachers who wish to build their own skills for teaching a digital citizenship program.

Enhancing Online Safety is a highly recommended resource.  The site is extensive and growing.  I suggest using the site map to support your exploration.  Students need to hear this message often and from many different angles if they are to become responsible in their online communications.  Digital citizenship instruction doesn’t address their behaviour but at least it may give them the chance to save their reputation for the time when they have matured and have their behaviour under control.

Terms of Service; Didn’t Read

The most time-consuming part of evaluating web tools for educational use has got to be looking at the Terms of Service (also know as Terms of Use or Terms and Conditions). They can go on for pages, and are so often wrapped up in so much legalese that even if you manage to read to the end, there is no guarantee you will be any wiser. And yet we can’t just ignore them; it is our duty as educators and as digital citizens to protect rights and understand responsibilities online.

Wouldn’t it be great if  Google Translate could do something to convert ToS into Plain English? Well, Terms of Service; Didn’t Read might be just the web project we’ve been waiting for. ToS:DR (for short) are a user rights group aiming to rate and label website terms & privacy policies from “very good Class A to very bad Class E.”  As well as rating them, they are also providing a “thumbs up/thumbs down” report card that helps users better understand individual aspects of a service agreement. The report card is written in bullet point fashion but it is possible to expand the points for more detailed explanations, access the full terms of the web tool and there are discussion pages available behind each of the points.

ToS;DR is still very new (started in mid-2012) so the number of sites that have report cards are limited, but it is an excellent example of the positive change that can occur through global connectivity and collaboration, and the project is actively growing.

This is a grassroots project, created by citizens and volunteers who take their responsibilities very seriously; they engage in a peer-reviewed process of rating and analysing to create each rating, and they are committed to Creative Commons and Free Software licensing.

While this site does not take the place of legal advice, it does help users make some sense of the pages and pages of fine print before we click, and ultimately that offers us the chance to make better online choices.

Untangling the Web with Aleks Krotoski

Aleks Krotoski is an academic,  psychologist and journalist who writes about the impact of technology on our lives. Aleks’ upcoming book Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You, explores the ways the web can influence our relationships and change our perceptions of ourselves and others.

Aleks is in Australia as the inaugural speaker for the Digital Society series at the State Library of Victoria (tickets are still available for both free events on May 20 & May 21). We were lucky enough to speak to Aleks about her work. You can listen to the full interview below, as Aleks explores the importance of cultivating an online persona,  the tension that exists between our private and public selves and the importance of information literacy. She also shares her ambition to own a full set of the 1974 Encyclopaedia Britannica.


Portrait of ASeks Krotoski © Kevin MeredithShow notes and links:

Aleks’ online reporter’s notebook for Untangling the Web

Aleks Krotoski on Twitter

Aleks’ Tech Weekly podcast series

Aleks interviews T. Mills Kelly on Lying about the past

Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (Amazon)

Google’s Eric Schmidt: The Internet needs a delete button  



Promise from Webwise

Today is Safer Internet Day and across the world a number educators and organisations will work with students to explore the theme of  ‘Online Rights and Responsibilities – Connect with Respect’.

To coincide with the day, the Irish association Webwise have launched Promise, a thought provoking video exploring the impact of comments online. Whilst the video does touch on the damage caused by negative online comments, the piece also explores the power of communities and the potential of the web. It’s well worth a look, and would be a great conversation starter in your class today. You can watch Promise below and find other resources on the Webwise site.

Promise from PDST Technology in Education on Vimeo.

Safer Internet Day 2013

February 5th marks the tenth anniversary of Safer Internet Day. This international event aims to promote safe and responsible internet use by increasing awareness amongst students and educators. The event’s theme is ‘Online Rights and Responsibilities – Connect with Respect’.

Once again the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Cybersmart team will coordinate events across Australia to promote the day. You can find out all about the day’s events and get some great resources from the Cybersmart site.

ACMA are also running an internet radio show on the day from 5pm-8pm AEDST. The show will feature student panellists, representatives from social media companies and experts from a number of organisations. You can take part by emailing or tweeting using the #SID2013Oz hashtag. If you can’t tune in on the day then the program will be available for download afterwards. The global hashtag for the day is #SID2013

Congratulations to the Cybersmart team on their excellent work in organising these events and their work in general. They do a great job educating people about an often tricky subject. Make sure you explore the Cybersmart site for all of their fantastic resources and follow along with all of their updates on Twitter and Facebook.


eSmart Libraries

On Monday 27 August, 2012 The Hon Julia Gillard MP officially announced eSmart Libraries  – a 8 million dollar partnership between The Allannah & Madeline Foundation and the Telstra Foundation to address cybersafety through public libraries.

Given that over 54% of Australians are members of libraries, this could be a valuable piece of work – providing a roadmap to the tools and resources that will equip the library community with the skills and knowledge for smart, safe, and responsible use of technology.

A pilot will commence in early 2013 , and the initiative will eventually be rolled out to all public libraries nationally.

eSmart Libraries is an extension to eSmart Schools.

Cybersafety Summit 2012

Today’s post comes from regular contributor Catherine Hainstock of Vermont Secondary College. Catherine tells us about her experiences at the recent National Cybersafety Summit.

On June 12th, I attended the National Cybersafety Summit in Canberra with two students from the school.  They were select members from the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) who took part in online forum discussions to help inform the government on cyber safety initiatives. The purpose of the Summit was to bring students, parents and teachers together with relevant industries and government sectors to discuss “how to keep young Australians safe online”.

The summit was hosted by Project Rockit team members and formally opened by Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

Students attended sessions on Managing Your Reputation Online led by Ruby Rose, MTV presenter and spokesperson for HeadSpace. They discussed strategies for protecting their reputations, and the social and legal consequences of harassment, cyberbullying and sexting with the Federal Police. Students  also shared some opinions including the inconsistencies in dealing with bullies at school and that many of the Cybersafety resources used in schools were either not interesting or age-appropriate.

They then attended a session with ABC’s Good Game hosts, Bajo and Hex on Digital Etiquette and Gaming. The culture and nature of gaming was discussed including bullies and online trolls. Teens shared that there is pressure to keep up with obligations to the team in online games. They also said that parents should take more of an interest in what’s going on in their kids’ gaming world.

Adults also attended a  Digital Etiquette and Gaming session. They were surprised to hear that the average age of a gamer was 37 years old. Parental discussion focused on the language and bullying in games. Bajo and Hex urged adults to take interest in their children’s gaming, to keep lines of communication open, set limits and discuss online friendships. Above all the room agreed that it was important to help kids understand that “it’s only a game!” and to not invest too much emotion in it. The adults also attended a presentation by the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation outlining their eSmart Schools program.

The afternoon panel discussion was the highlight for most participants. Some excellent questions and discussion developed:

    • Should teachers and students be friends on Facebook (or other social networks)?
    • Should we stop under 13s from going on Facebook?
    • Should kids be using technology as an emotional outlet?
    • What is the duty of care for teachers in cyberbullying incidents that happen outside of the school?

The show stopper of the day though came from one of my own students. Her question and comment was that not enough was being done to educate young Australians about the mental health consequences of cyberbullying. She wanted to know why we don’t teach people that all the negative online behaviour (and bullying in general) leads to depression, self harm and suicide. She felt the statistics and incidents should not be taboo topics. The entire room fell silent as she spoke.

I think all of us left the summit with much to reflect on and some excellent strategies and directions. I feel privileged to have been a part of the discussion and will be discussing ideas with my Principal for new initiatives.

Thanks to Catherine for sharing her reflection on the event. You can find out more about Catherine’s work on her blog TL Under Construction.

Should we be teaching Facebook?

Today’s post comes from a new regular contributor to Bright Ideas, Tony Richards.

What an interesting week we have just had in relation to movements around cyber safety. Recently we saw splashed across the traditional media a principal’s ultimatum to students and parents “Quit Facebook or be expelled, school says”. The headlines play on the social stigma of expulsion and the dreaded boogie man that is Facebook.

I am sure there is much more to this story that meets the eye but what frustrates me and should concern other educators is the lack of clear understanding that is shown by educational leaders, along with the fear mongering cyber safety experts that get their media ego fix and pump up the tyres of fear around social networks. Yes Facebook has lots of issues and challenges for our children and adults alike, however social networks are here to stay.

We need to change the model and educate our children around why some of these tools are not the best option for communicating, sharing or playing games. The responsibilities one takes on when creating a social networking presence has some profound implications if you choose to ignore or plead ignorance around privacy, friends, comments and all the other components associated with these networks.

We must start to provide social tools at school within the educational environment that students can engage in so that we can model, explore, test, bend and experience connectivity at this level and what it means to operate successfully online.

I find it extremely interesting that one of the great misunderstandings about social networks, especially the larger social networking sites, is that the 13 and over rule found in the Terms of Service (ToS) is based on the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA). This act and the law behind it is to enforce privacy restriction on the site owners. As stated in the news article by a Melbourne based lawyer “the Facebook guideline that stipulated users must be aged 13 and older was not enforced by any law.”

When children sign up under the age of 13 in Australia they are breaking the terms of service of the site. Facebook has the onus to ensure that children under the age of 13 don’t sign up, which begs the question, “How do you enforce such a situation?” The stark reality is that you can’t.

The recommendations from some sections of the media around reporting your children to Facebook and getting their account deactivated and cancelled is certainly one step. From my experience working with thousands of students each year if students want to have access then they will get it. If parents or the school have taken these types of steps to remove them then all our children will do is take it underground where you will have no opportunity to help or support them. You will have no credible way to have smart, honest conversations about what they should and should not share.

I am not advocating children breaking the ToS, but I am advocating talking about the challenges, the risks, the complications and the moral question around being part of a service when clearly they should not. We have to talk and listen to our students and we have to help them grow and develop online.

If I were teaching in a class this topic and that media headline would be the foundation of a week’s worth of discussion around the use of Facebook. Why are students on it, what is the draw, why does the media react in such a way and what could have possibly tipped a principal over the edge like this? The headline “Quit Facebook or be expelled” is screaming out for an impromptu debate, preferably with another school using a collaborative tool like Skype to highlight the power of the environment we all access.

What will you be talking about this week with your students around cyber smarts?

Tony has listed a range of cybersafety resources at his blog and he is available to present Online Smart sessions to students, parents, teachers, community organisations and business around successfully navigating social networks and the internet. You can find all of  Tony’s contact details on his profile page, or find him on Twitter @itmadesimple. Let us know what you think about the post in the comments or, quite fittingly, on our Facebook page.


Permission slip

Those of you who follow the Victorian Police Twitter account may have noticed over the weekend an odd tweet about a magical weight loss technique. Most followers would have picked up straight away that the tweet was from someone who had gained unauthorised access to the Victorian Police account and the police moved quickly to inform followers and delete the tweet. (You can read more in this article about the tweet, with obligatory donut reference.) To see an official and trusted account accessed in this way is a timely reminder of the importance of keeping your accounts protected.

We’ve probably all received strange tweets or emails from our contacts, usually with a message that “This user is saying nasty rumours about you” or “I saw this photo of you and I’m laughing so hard” with a link to a malicious site. Because so many tweets share links using URL shortening services it can be difficult to see if a link is trustworthy just by looking at the address. Our tip would be to only open links from trusted sources, and make sure they have some context provided rather than just a general message like “I saw this site and thought of you”.

Twitter in particular seems susceptible to the problem, possibly because of the ability to connect a number of third party applications to your Twitter account. Being able to log in to different services using your Twitter account is very handy, meaning you don’t have to remember multiple passwords and making it easier to share links with one click. But the side effect can be that you are handing over partial control of your account. When you authorise an external service to access your account make sure that you read what the service will be able to do, and only authorise if you feel comfortable and trust the service.

Even if you have given permission to access your account, you still have the power to revoke access to an external service at any time. In order to secure your account and not see your followers or friends spammed with annoying or dangerous messages, we recommend doing a bit of housekeeping. Have a look at the services linked to your accounts and revoke permission to any that you aren’t using anymore or don’t trust.

To help you out, we’ve put together guides below to revoking external access to the three main accounts that you might use; Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Guide to revoking access to your Twitter account

Guide to revoking access to your Facebook account

Guide to revoking access to your Google account

Privacy in networked publics

RMIT’s School of Media and Communication recently hosted a talk by Dr. danah boyd, an influential researcher into the way young people make use of social media and technology. The talk, which is available for download,  was a fascinating insight into danah’s work with young people. danah explored the ways teens make use of social media and their attitudes to privacy in what are essentially public spaces.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of danah’s talk was the concept of teens ‘hiding in plain sight’. Teens used to socialise at shopping centres and malls, but now much of their socialising and ‘social grooming’ happens online. To many teens sharing is an important aspect of staying connected with their friends and danah’s interviews expose the very different attitudes that teens can have to privacy.

Interestingly, danah has found that although teenagers may share publicly on sites such as Facebook, this doesn’t always mean they expect this information to be viewed or commented on by everyone (particularly their parents or teachers). Several of danah’s interview subjects revealed ingenious ways of using both structural tricks or codes to protect their privacy whilst still sharing with their friends.  If we think back to our own childhoods, many of us probably used similar tricks to communicate with our friends when older people were around. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

To find out more about danah’s work (including the reason for her lower case name) visit her website, or follow her blog. In a time where the media often resort to scaremongering when exploring how young people use social media, danah’s research provides some balance to this very important discussion.