If you are the parent of school aged children then you need to keep reading. It is time to be honest with yourselves and take notice before your child becomes the next victim. Am I being an ‘over the top’ teacher? Probably yes, but the reality and consequence for not taking action is frightening. Read On……………………….
This week I have intervened in several situations involving students compromising their safety by sharing personal information online. In each situation the child believed they were innocently posting photos for friends when they had in fact given online predators a map and a green light to track them down.
Student 1 (Sibling of a student at our school): Using her Instagram account posted a screen shot of her online banking balance page in an attempt to show friends how much she had saved for an upcoming holiday. In doing so she had shared her account numbers, branch BSB numbers and full identification details to her closest 500 followers. To her credit she had try to use a fading out application, but the numbers could still easily be identified. On closer investigation I was horrified to realise her account was not set to private….so she had actually shared this with every Tom, Dick and weirdo whose favourite pastime is to troll social media sites looking at pictures of teenage girls.
Student 2: Year 12 student excitedly posted a screen shot of her newly attained drivers licence. Address, birthdate, eye colour, signature and licence number clearly visible. Whilst this account was set to private, I was still able to gain access to this picture through other ‘open’ accounts.
These girls are capable, friendly and intelligent students, imagine what the silly ones are getting up to?
I know for certain that the schools are doing their part. As early as Year One, students are engaged in Online Safety Curriculum and conversation. Students using computers as part of a 1 to 1 program at every year level must attain a a ‘Net-passport’ That is only issued on completion of a Net-Tiquette Program, based solely on cyber safety, bullying and privacy issues. Many schools also arrange visits from detectives working in ‘Online Crime to speak with their Year Sevens about protecting online identities. The students are always shocked when the detective arrives with a book full of personal information on our students, retrieved after only minutes of searching the names on our class lists. How easy would it be for the professional perverts who have hours a day to spend on this type of sinister research?
But are the parents also keeping up their end of the Education? Seriously ask yourself Do you really know what your children are posting online? When was the last time you looked at what they were posting? When was the last time you sat down with them and had a good chat about web safety and Net-Tiquette? Or do you believe it is solely the school’s job to sort this out for you?
After seeing some truly stupid posts placed online by parents themselves, I wonder is ‘Adult –Education’ the problem? Many adults do not seem to realize that anything posted online forms part of your digital footprint or online identity, and once published is there for all to see. Most employers will now run an online search for perspective employees, so you better hope you are setting your children up for success. A prominent Queensland netballer, 25 years old, has even been through the courts recently after being blackmailed by an online stalker to whom she posted private photos to. You would imagine that by 25 years old you would have gotten the message loud and clear.
Whilst it doesn’t surprise me, it does anger me that Child Safety continues to be compromised due to a lack of education. So if you have no idea about how to get the ball rolling have a quick look at the following guidelines which apply to adults and students and are endorsed by most local authorities on the matter.
- Never post a photo of your child wearing their school uniform. Whilst the first day of school pics are adorable this is an easy way to hand feed information to strangers. Uniforms give a lot of information away. For starters- The address and exact whereabouts of your child between 8:30am -3pm. It all amazes me when parents post these pictures and you can even read the name of the school on the shirt.
- Do not use (or use sparingly) the ‘check in’ feature on Facebook. I have seen so many people checking into their own house, a feature which not just gives strangers your rough address but is also so helpful it provides them with map in case the weirdo can’t find you already!
- If you must use the ‘check in’ feature do not check in at after school activities such as footy practice, ballet etc. For obvious reasons. Not only does this let everyone know where your child is, it also tells them that you are not at home, leaving you vulnerable to a whole host of other nasties.
- Use an online alias. There is absolutely no need for you to sign up for a Social Media Account using your own name. Change it slightly or use a middle name as a surname.
- Make sure your child’s profiles are set to PRIVATE!!!!! Obviously as a teacher I am approached by many students on social media. I am shocked by how many students still have their accounts open. Unbelievable.
- Do not use your own photo or image for your profile picture. Even with a private setting, a google search using your name will still yield results including the photo you use as a profile picture. Choose a cartoon character, object or symbol rather than your own face. Avoid using a drunk photo from last year’s Christmas Party. Not a good look.
- Make sure you are ‘friends’ or a ‘Follower’ of your child. If they don’t want that, then there is something wrong. This is also a great way to keep an eye on bullying and also what other children are posting of your children. Eg; your child may not post ‘wrong’ photos on their own sites, but are others doing it for them? To those that say this is an invasion of privacy, go and google ‘Carly Ryan, Adelaide’. I bet her mum only wishes she had invaded her daughter’s privacy a lot sooner, a heartbreaking story, but sadly it doesn’t stand alone.
- Make sure you know what the following Social Media Sites are and do a search; Kick, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Askfm, Twitter. These change every day, it is our job to keep up with them.
I know many of you are thinking, ‘I don’t even have enough time to check my own Facebook ! How will I get around to all that?’ Well the answer must be Make the time. If you have given them the device to be online, then you need to educate them on how to ‘be online’.
It is the same as giving them a car and allowing them to drive without a licence.
I shall now hop down from my high horse, I think he is tired.