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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Safety, The Rules Have Changed and Then There's Facebook

Look both ways before you cross the street! Don't talk to strangers!  Some safety rules haven't changed at all, but the arena in which they are practiced has.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

It's Internet Safety Week at our school and we decided it had to be a whole school event this year, which basically means that the majority of grades are directly involved somehow. In the Secondary School we have put together a series of mini lessons for form time, most of which contain short video clips, and hopefully lead to plenty of discussion. There are so many great resources out there to choose from, that we have been able to provide a fairly rich array of experiences for the kids. During the week we are also running assemblies for each grade which focus on web presence and safety settings. There is a clever video from the CEOP which we use in the assemblies and  which really gets the message across and spurs kids into action, when it comes to their online presence.  This leads me to Facebook.

We are aware that many of our students under the age of 13 have Facebook accounts, but do their parents know?  Let's face it, the kids are there for the apps and the cool factor! During our assemblies this week (after the video) a short demonstration is given on how to apply safer settings in Facebook, right at the point when the kids are starting to really worry about the information they have posted online. I've uploaded the presentation (which is not  mindblowing or terribly pretty, just a set of slides taking you through the process of adjusting your different settings). This presentation has also been posted on our ABCICT wiki by student request.  The response so far has been good. Kids are looking for help in adjusting their privacy settings.

So what message are we sending out? The message is simple. We know you may have a facebook account and if you are under 13 you shouldn't. Your parents need to be aware of it, be able to monitor your use of it and you need to ensure your behaviour is safe. We are not condoning it, but rather accepting that this is the case and trying to cover all bases in keeping  everyone safe. What's missing then? The parents of course.

Parents for whatever reasons are often unaware of the extent of their child's online activities and let's face it, kids (and other people) will lie about their age to get what they want, in this case an account.  Parents themeselves are an essential link in all of this. They need to be aware of the situation, regardless of their child's age, talk to their child about their experiences online, help them monitor friend lists, privacy settings and reinforce appropriate online behaviour.  Parents need to know. Sometimes its hard to get the message out.  In our case the school has started an online newsletter, which  intended specifically for the purpose of opening up the issues by informing and supporting parents in keeping their kids safe.

When you are focused on something like this good things often make their way to you. Just this afternoon a tweet came through on TweetDeck about a Facebook Safety blog post by Laura Deisley. Perfect! I've included it in this post as it contains an excellent set of guidelines for helping parents sort out their child's safety settings.

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