Digital privacy and data protection is a big topic for schools adopting social media. It is the first time in history that teachers have less knowledge than the pupils - with so many kids having now been born into a socially connected world.
This means that extra work needs to put in to ensure pupils are using social media and digital tools safely. This does not stop at the classroom - parents also need to be educated to understand and guide their kids to safe digital usage...
...this is the assumption anyway! But do the younger generations need to be correctly guided in social media?
How clued up are they about privacy and data protection? Do they even care about it - is online security a serious consideration for your plugged-in kids?
Educating the educators
Before we can answer these questions you need to ask yourself how knowledgable are you in online safety?
T&C's - the blind leading the blind?
As adults we have greater scope to understand how social media works and to be savvy about what we sign up for. However, the simple reality is most of us aren't particularly savvy and will blindly agree to anything online.
Don't believe us? When did you take the time to read the Terms & Conditions for Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or iTunes, or Netflix, or Gmail?
Without fail, each and every one of these services collect your data and you agreed for them to do so! Some use this data to refine their platforms, some use it to target you better with products and some will sell your information onto third parties. It may sound dodgy or seem unfair, but you agreed to let them do so.
With this in mind, how can your pupils and kids possibly understand their rights as digital users?
Professional Reputation - digital is forever
As educators your reputation in your school is important. You are champions to your pupils - examples in how to learn not just academically but in all facets of their lives. It is essential then that you maintain a professional outlook in all facets of your life. The simple rule to always remember is this:
What happens on social media, stays on Google forever.
Suddenly, that silly thing you did a few years ago (for a laugh) becomes your digital legacy. The pupils in your school can (and mostly likely will) find it - even if your settings are set to private.
Understanding this is an important step to understanding how you can better educate your pupils on their digital legacies.
Issues of privacy: The rise of Sharenting
Have you heard of Sharenting? It is the name attributed to parents who share images of their own children on social media. It sounds harmless enough, but it is important to realise the consequences of this.
Most kids have started their life on social media before they are even born! It is nothing new to see pictures of ultrasounds - of parents celebrating their pregnancy. Beyond this, it is likely you have seen proud mummies and daddies plastering their Facebook or Instagram walls with baby pictures and videos. In fact, according to a survey, more than 90% of 2-year-olds in the US have a presence on social media.
This trend continues on for most parents indefinitely - with toddlers and older having their photos continually shared online.
What is not being realised is that parents are creating digital footprints for their kids. This means that:
- Media of a person is being shared without permission. While this is not usually an issue with babies, it does raise an interesting question. If a child asks for their pics to stop being posted on social can the parent refuse? What digital rights do children have? Right now there is no one rule - in much the same way that adults can't 100% stop friends and family posting pictures of them.
- It’s hard to UNDO content. For kids reaching the more awkward stages of their youth, fitting in is a huge worry for many. Many will be on social already (even if they are younger than 13), so having a collection of embarrassing photos and videos of them can lead to hard experiences. Good news (although laborious currently) - when they turn into an adult, they automatically become the right-holder for their data - and can go through the process of asking Google to remove any links or references to them. Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals. In the future, this will be more automated and easier via AI.
- Private information is being shared. Think for a moment about the sharents you know on your own social media. Now think about all the details you know about their child - even if you have not seen them or the parents for a long time. You'll probably know their name, where they live, their age, date of birth, hair colour, eye colour, the school they go to. If you know these details it stands to reason that anyone can easily find them too.
Resources: In and out of the classroom
You may be reading this and thinking MY GOODNESS! But fear not - we are not looking to scare monger people into never using social media again. In fact, we are all for social media, and want schools to be using it effectively and safely to help share #SchoolStories across their communities.
What needs to be the focus of this article is awareness, and understanding the consequences of poor privacy and data protection.
There are plenty of great resources available, ranging from lesson plans for your pupils to taking control of your own digital citizenship. We have listed some below 👍
- The UK Safer Internet Centre - the organisation behind Safer Internet Day - is a great place to start. Their site is filled with lots of tips, articles and advice for your pupils to better understand e-safety. It also tackles large issues such as what to do if pupils have witnessed or been involved in cyber bullying.
The site is split into three sections for easier navigation - dependent on who is looking for advice:
- Likewise, edutopia has curated a Digital Citizenship Resource list - collecting articles, videos, and other resources on internet safety, cyberbullying, digital responsibility, and media and digital literacy.
- We also have a great article from our blog archive all about Keeping Children Safe Online.
We hope that the information in this article has given you some insight into not just digital safety and privacy, but where you and your school stand in ensuring children are safe online. As a school, your duty goes beyond keeping children safe in the world - meaning it is important parents also understand their role in online safety.
In the next part we will look into this from a pupil's perspective. It is important to realise that the vast majority of your pupils are digital natives - in terms of using the tech they get it. What needs to be addressed is whether they care about privacy and data protection, and if they need to be taught in the same way we need to.
Thank you for reading. We welcome thoughts on all the topics we discuss and would love to hear from you. Please comment below.