Teaching Internet Safety: It Takes A Village

There’s a quiet debate taking place in the hallways of schools across the country – no – around the world. Who is responsible for teaching kids about Internet Safety?

I’ve travelled to hundreds of schools around North America and I’ve had this conversation regularly with school administrators, counselors, parents and even students. It would seem the problem is that, on all fronts, people feel they don’t have enough information or education about what it means to be safe in the online world.

As a result parents are looking to the educators, educators are looking to the parents and our student are stuck in limbo trying to navigate between the digital world and the real one.

When I first started talking to people about internet safety six years ago, I would have gladly put the responsibility of internet safety squarely on the shoulders of the parents. In reality, parents are the ones providing their kids with the mobile technology that is getting them into so much trouble. But there has been a shift over the last few years as more and more schools are moving to a 1:2:1 environment where they are providing the students with the technology.

ID-100189110So who is responsible for teaching internet safety and digital citizenship to our kids? We all are.

I’m not one for clichés but in this situation it fits. I turn to the oft quoted African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

In a recent survey conducted by internet security company AVG is was reported that parents rely too much on schools to teach their kids about internet safety according to 82% of teachers interviewed. The research brings to light the argument of who is responsible for the education of our kids when it comes to the digital world. Many teachers surveyed feel that the pressure comes from parents who don’t know enough about the online world to educate their kids.

This is an argument that needs to stop.

Rather than passing the buck I think it’s important to start working together on this topic and sometimes it helps to reach outside the box for help.

I look at education and policy like the circus act of the spinning plates. The perform sets up his first plate and gets it going. Then on to the second, the third, the fourth and onward. You get everything going and it looks great. To keep things going you have to go back to the beginning and keep that first plate from falling. You can’t just set things up and rely on them to take care of themselves- you need to keep it going.

Get the Conversation Started

It’s in the beginning that I recommend the outside help. Bring in specialists to work with each level of the conversation.

Educators

For educators I recommend taking a part of an in-service day to get the conversation going. Work with your outside presenter to come up with the best lesson for your educators. For me, I work closely with schools to customize each program to fit the conversation already taking place. I want to make sure everyone has the appropriate tools to great the best digital citizens possible. I’ve even stopped running my “scripted” program to have full-blown candid conversations about the topic. By working together to have this conversations with one another, we are developing the tools to bring these lessons to students.

Students

The outsider is the perfect conversation starter for students. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the following from an BkPkF-LIgAELD-1educator I’d be a rich man. It’s simply this: “we tell our students these same things all the time and we never get through. You did it in an hour.” The next thing from them is usually asking me what my secret is. The truth is, there’s no secret. I’m just an outsider.

It’s important to use workshops and assemblies as a preventive measure rather than a reactionary one. Setting the stage early is key. Once the lessons have been taught, students are more likely to take a few moments to think before they act in the online world. They might take the time to type out that hateful message, but they’re also going to think twice about posting or sending and in most cases it’ll get deleted before the act.

One students, after hearing my assembly program, started a campaign in his school entitled “What would Josh do?” Using the lessons learned from the assembly, he created posters that were then hung around school depicting different scenarios often found in the online world (sexting, bullying, etc) and simply wrote “What would Josh do?” on the bottom. He also included my Twitter handle and e-mail address, giving his fellow students the reminder that I am always available to answer questions.

It was a brilliant idea that sparked a movement for his classmates. I spent a lot of time responding to their questions via social networking and that’s something I’ll never have an issue with. It tells me they’re thinking about what we discussed.

Parents

Get the parents involved as soon as possible. I love parent nights. Over the last six years I have conducted well over 100 even programs talking to parents about the online world. These are essential in bringing the conversations into the home environment.

What I always recommend is booking both students and parent nights back to back.  The reason being that I use a lot of the same material presented to the students in an effort to facilitate the at home conversation. Simply saying to your child, “Josh talked to us about this- what did he tell you?” and from there having a thoughtful conversation. I also given parents additional information and tools not presented to the students in order to give them what they need to bring more light to a topic. I won’t always be around, but you will.

Keep the Conversations Going

You’ve got the plates spinning and now it’s time to keep them in the air. Don’t just look at this as a one and done conversation. It needs to happen early and it needs to happen often.

For educators, take some time during each in-service day to discuss the online world. Keep tabs on news stories from around the world. Use current events to talk to students about what is happening to people their age. In the last year along I posted stories about how sexting is getting many teenagers into trouble, how apps like YikYak are landing students in jail and how one tweet can change your entire life.

I’m, of course, going to recommend following my blog and tweets to keep up with the current events (because I can) but just watching the news each morning will give you what you need. Honestly, if I hadn’t been watching the news at the gym, I would have never known about the eraser challenge.

Blogging is key. I recommend that the school take a look at blogging platforms (I offer my recommendations in last year’s Social Networking in the Classroom series) and use them. Get your principals, school counselors, resource officers and teachers blogging. Get your parents following those blog posts and tweets.

As you hear about a news item, write about it! Or share what has been written about it. Keep those conversations going and keep everyone in the know. Even if it’s not happening in your school, your district or even your state- it’s important to keep tabs on the world. We are incredibly connected today and so are out students. They have access to a wealth of information, articles and videos- you should be just as connected.

Don’t Be Afraid to Bring it Up

Last year I visited a school district right around the time that YikYak was causing problems in schools. In a candid conversation with the principal prior to the start of the assemblies I mentioned the app and the issues coming up around it. He point-blank asked me not to mention it to his students at all since it hadn’t become an issue in the school. His reasoning- if we don’t talk about it, they won’t know about it.

Not the case at all.

As we are hearing news stories, so are students. Just because they aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean they aren’t using it.

By bringing the conversation to the table as educators and parents, we are telling our kids that we are aware and on the lookout for these issues. This is enough to make them think twice when they find themselves in a situation.

Get the Students Involved

Remember that campaign I talked about earlier? What would Josh do? A student came up with that. It’s funny, it’s relevant and it’s hilarious (not to mention flattering).  Some of the best experiences I’ve had as a speaker have come from events where the students were heavily involved.

Give them an opportunity to impress you.

One district in Indiana hired me to come in not because the school wanted it, because the students did. With the help and sponsorship of local businesses, student created  their own digital citizenship week. They had poster and video contests, pep rallies, assemblies, t-shirts. They went all out. The students did the leg work with the support of their local community, their parents and their administrators.

Get your student body involved in the conversation because, at the end of the day, this is their world.

Keep Those Plates Spinning

It’s important to have this conversation with everyone as early as possible. Start the school year off on a positive note and keep that song going. Get students excited about the idea and find ways to keep them energized and engaged.

Keep your educator blogs going with current events and bring those conversations into the classroom.  If, as an educator, you use current events as a part of your curriculum keep an eye out for news stories involving the digital world. Use them to facilitate thoughtful conversations with students. Ask them if they think how people are being punished is fair. Ask them what they would have done in that situation.

Share these stories with parents and fellow educators in your own social media feeds (yes, I encourage you to join twitter and use it often!).

Bring your specialist back! I work with many schools that bring back regularly, if not every year it’s every other. It’s a chance for students to see a familiar face and hear a familiar (always updated) message. It’s a great refresher and reenergizer for all.

I had no intention of this entry being so long when I started writing it! This is just a stepping stone to what it takes to get things going. I would love to hear thoughts and feedback from others about what they feel about this topic and how we can work together to get things going in our communities!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Image of Young Mother And Daughter Looking At Laptop courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Parents Should Know About Ask.FM

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s entry was prompted by recent events.  Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

Following the August 2 suicide of Hannah Smith, parents have become very concerned about their kids using the popular social networking site, AskFM. The site is in the vein of others like Formspring (which is currently under new management and closed).ask-fm

Founded in June 2010, the site’s purpose is simple enough in allowing users to ask one another questions anonymously. The key to the site’s popularity and overall appeal to others being the anonymous bit.

Like most site, AskFM has simple beginnings, allowing users to ask each other harmless questions like “what is the last movie you saw?” or “what’s your favorite YouTube video?” Like all well-intentioned things, the site quickly became grounds for anonymous hate messaging and cyberbullying.

AskFM has gained notoriety over this summer as it’s been attributed to a number of European teen suicides. From July to August, the deaths of Daniel Perry, Hannah Smith, Erin Gallagher and Joshua Unsworth were said to have been instigated by bullying on the site.

askfm privacyPrivacy
Privacy for the site is basic at best. You have two options: allow anonymous questions or do not allow then. The site also allows you to Blacklist or block users who you do not wish to interact with. I suggest, that if you are going to the site, do not allow for users to interact with you anonymously. This is only going to lead to problems.

User Interactions
Most users are just using the site for the reason it was intended. I joined up about a week ago to learn more about the site and just today received a question from a fellow user asking me “What is your one major weakness?” I have the option of answering with text or recording a video response. (For those who are wondering the answer is Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars from Disney world and if I had the ability I’d record me crying tears of joy while eating one in Magic Kingdom!).askfm002

Users can link their Facebook or Twitter accounts to find friends or search through the millions of users to find questions, answers or new friends.

The issue comes from the ability for users to interact anonymously. This allows for mean-spirited users to send messages like “drink bleach,” “go get cancer” and “go die.”

Reporting Inappropriate Use
Despite what the media is currently saying about the site, it is possible to report users for inappropriate use of the site. On a user’s pageaskfm001 in their questions you will see a downward arrow. Clicking on this bring a drop down menu with the option of reporting the content. That said, what the site does to control, remove or moderate this content, I have no good answer for you there. With 65 million users as of July of 2013, I can’t imagine that it’s easy to moderate every complaint that comes through in a timely manner.

That Being Said
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that when it comes to sites like AskFM, Formspring and others, do not allow your kids to use them. Any site that allows users to interact with complete strangers (see: Omegle) or allows for anonymous interactions is no good in my book. Any sane person would look at this site and say “No, thanks!”

I would strongly recommend sitting down and having a very serious conversations with your kids about sites like this. Remember to make it just that, a conversation. If you come in defensive and demanding, your kids will shut down and want nothing to do with the conversation.

I also have to say that I can’t help but point the finger at parents in these situations. Yes, Mark and Ilja Terebin (AskFM’s founders) should be doing more to keep their users safe and should rethink the way they are running things over there. Along the same lines, parents need to be paying more attention to the sites that their kids are joining and taking responsibility in keeping them safe.

If choose to allow your child to join sites like AskFM, I strongly encourage that you go over the site’s policies and privacy options with them. Make it a requirement that they cannot allow anonymous questions and users to interact with them.

Do you have a questions about an app or social networking site? Please feel free to e-mail your questions to info@joshgunderson.com and I will do my best to find you the answer!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About Omegle

This week continues my regular series “What Parents Should Know.” This week’s question comes from a concerned parent in Hawaii. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

If you were to stop me on the street and ask “Josh, should my teenager be on Omegle?”  I would more-than-likely start laughing while trying to get the word “no” out.  The site’s slogan is “Talk To Strangers!” At 28-years old, if I were to tell my mom that I was using a web site with that slogan, I’m pretty sure she’d ground me. I don’t even live with her!

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Image courtesy of sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Launched in 2008 by a 18-year-old, Vermonter, Leif K-Brooks, Omegle is a a free online chat website that allows users to communicate with strangers without registering. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the handles “You” and “Stranger”. In early 2009 the site added video conferencing feature in addition to chat.

In compliance with COPPA, the site requires users to be at least 13 year old to use the service but as it collect no personal data, it’s not that hard to get around that requirement. It also asked that users under the age of 18 get their parents’ permission before using the site.  Cause that’ll happen.

omegle002

This warning features prominently on Omegle’s home page. It’s also enough to tell me I don’t want to be on this site. You should feel the same way.

 

Stick with me here, it gets worse.

The site, according to its privacy policy, participants’ IP addresses are recorded and stored for up to 120 days. They record the following: “the time your chat began, your IP address, a randomly-generated ID tag assigned to your computer, your chat partner’s IP address, and your chat partner’s randomly-generated ID tag.” Why? For “purposes of law enforcement.” Is anyone else seeing the red flag’s here?

Because of complaints, the site now had moderators keeping an eye on chats to make sure that only appropriate things are happening. However, one can easily click on the option to join an unmoderated chat if you pinky-swear that you’re over 18. How do they check this? Well, this nifty window pops up, and then you just click OK.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you're old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

Trying to escape the moderators? Just click on the link for unmoderated chat. They ask you to confirm that you’re old enough to be there without asking for any information to verify.

 

Once a chat is ended, each user has the option of saving the transcript (when it’s saved, it lives on Omegle’s servers forever). Free software has also allowed people to trap and record video conferences- many of which can be found on tame sites, like YouTube.  An image search on Google gave me enough reasons to never go near the site.

I strongly encourage parents to have a conversation with their kids about sites like Omegle. Remind them that talking to strangers, even with a computer screen and, potentially, hundreds of miles between you, is never a smart idea. It is so easy to give out loads of personal information without even realizing it. Also remind them that the internet is forever and any videos that may be perceived as inappropriate can have a lasting effect on their future.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About Instagram

After my post about SnapChat, I’ve had a number of parents e-mailing and asking about other Apps and Social Media. Inspired, I’m now making answering these questions a regular series on the blog. These entries will be posted on Fridays. Have something you’re wondering about? Send me a message and I’ll do my best to find an answer: info@joshgunderson.com

I will admit that I’m a big fan of Instagram. I joined and posted my first picture just over a year ago and I’ve been hooked. One of the reasons I love it so much is because it allows me not only to share photos from my time on the road, but geo-tagging helps me create a fun map of places I have been. This past spring, I began taking photos of schools I have visited and using these posts to give a shout-out to the great audiences and allow students and teachers to comment and share their thoughts on the program.

instagram

While I’m having a lot of fun with the app, it seems others are having a less enjoyable experience. Parents are growing very concerned with the safety and well-being of their children. I’ve compiled some things all parents should know about the app and how to best keep their kids safe.

Privacy
Like most social apps, Instagram allows users to protect their privacy by selecting the option “Photos are Private”. By selecting this you are hiding your photos from the outside world and you, from there, can select who is able to follow your posts. Please note that this only hides your photos- information like your name, bio and profile picture are public no matter what.

Geo Tagging
While it’s great to have a map of your travels, it’s important to understand what it means to be creating this map. The option to “Add to Your Photo Map” is turned off by default. Once it’s turned on, however, it remains that way until you turn it back off. It’s important to make sure you are aware of what setting is active when uploading, especially when doing so from home. Forgetting to turn it off will allow others to see where you were at the time of upload.

Sharing
Instagram allows users to share their photos beyond the world of the app and onto social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. If a user chooses to share beyond the app, it’s important that they check the privacy settings on that particular network. For instance, on Twitter, the photo and location will be public unless your profile is set to private.

Friends
Keeping your friends real is the best thing you can do with this app and all social networking. My general rule of thumb is: if they aren’t a contact in my phone, they aren’t my friends. I would even expand that out to: if I’ve never been in the same room as this person, I’m not going to be their friend. In the digital world you can’t be too safe!

Keeping Safe

Like on Facebook, Instagram (which is owned by the Zuckerberg empire) users can be tagged in the photos of others. It’s important to keep an eye on what photos you or your child are being tagged in and how they could affect them. It is possible to untag yourself if the person’s profile is public. Otherwise, you’ll have to ask that you be removed.

Instagram also allows for a user to block another. Once a user is blocked, they will not be able to see your profile or pictures, tag photos of you, or mention you in comments. This is a great tool if you don’t want someone having any access to you or if they are repeatedly harassing you.

Users can also be reported for violating Instagram’s Community Guidelines. If you or your child find that someone is misusing the app or violating anything mentioned in the guidelines, report them. The claim will be investigated by the folks at Instagram and appropriate action will be taken.

As always, I encourage you to learn as much as possible about the app and share in your child’s experiences. Ask them questions or even ask them to teach you how to use the app on your own phone. Follow them and their friends and let them know that you’re keeping an eye on the things they post.

What have your experiences with Instagram as a parent been like? I’d love to hear about it!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.
Image Source

How Much Information is Too Much Information? Take a Look!

One of the biggest things I caution my audiences about is how much information we give away without even thinking about it. Some people are amazed to find out that even the simplest status update or tweet can reveal so much more than we even intended. In my programs I give an example of how one profile picture and three status updates can tell you so much! It boggles the mind!
In a recent internet search I came across an interesting Infographic on the TrendLabs Blog that reveals The Risks of Posting in Social Networks. You can check out the entry by clicking here or checking out the Infographic below!

TrendLabs Infographic

 

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.