Teaching about cybersafety is the responsibility of every teacher. Here in Australia, we are fortunate to be able to access the fantastic services of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the government authority which has responsibility for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radio communications and telecommunications.
Part of ACMA’s role is providing cybersafety education through the Cybersmart Program, which is designed to support and encourage participation online by providing information and education which empowers children to be safe online. It does this by providing information and resources for children, teens, parents, schools and libraries, as well as running seminars and workshops free of charge for all of these groups.
This is just one example of the terrific high quality video resources available on the Cybersmart Facebook Page.
I was fortunate to participate in a day long professional development opportunity run by Cybersmart, which focused on the modules of Booting Up (getting to know students and their digital behavior), Ethical Online Behaviours (promoting positive relationships and exploring how to deal with various cybersafety issues), The Bottom Line (the roles and responsibilities of teachers when dealing with cybersafety) and Plugging in to the Curriculum (ways to connect cybersafety education to the Australian Curriculum). You can read more about this workshop here.
This blog post will share the information that I gathered during the Cybersmart professional development day, with links to where you can find more information and ideas.
One of the key changes in a contemporary approach to teaching cybersafety is a movement from ‘protecting students’ to students learning to ‘self manage’. This approach acknowledges that prohibition, in the form of blocking sites and banning devices doesn’t work, as students will always get around blocks and filters if they want to. Simply blocking or banning access removes responsible adults from the conversation – it is only when students are using and interacting with technology that opportunities for discussion around ethical and sensible use arise. It is when students are forced to ‘go underground’ with their technology use, that issues have more potential to escalate.
The potential to connect, share, create and partake of a world of information is at student’s fingertips. How to use this power responsibly is a skill and understanding that today’s students require, and the message ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ is one that they should hear loud and clear from educators.
Through providing students with the opportunity to experiment and take ‘strategic risks’ by using a variety of online tools and devices, students vulnerability to exploitation is reduced – as always, education is the best strategy, enabling students to develop confidence and competence so that if they become involved in an inappropriate or dangerous situation, they are more likely to report to trusted adults and will have more skills to manage the situation.
Even with this proviso, kids will be kids, and it is important for adults to be aware of the types of tools they are using and the positive opportunities and potential risks they present.
According to our ACMA Cybersafety workshop, the current apps and sites are ‘trending’ among young users. Please note these change frequently!
The following have the age limit of 13 in their terms and conditions, but are used frequently by students of year 5 and upward:
What they say: “Capture and Share the World’s Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family.”
What it is: a huge photo sharing social media site, with over 100 million users – like a visual Facebook.
What they say: “Snapchat is the fastest way to share a moment on iPhone – up to 10x faster than MMS. Control how long you want your friends to view your messages”
What it is: Send a photo which will ‘self destruct’ after a given time limit to a friend – this is sometimes used to send inappropriate images, as the user believes the image only has a short life on the receiver’s device – however these images may be recorded using screen captures, and then shared with others.
What they say: “Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love.”
What it is: a photo and multimedia blogging site, where users can share images and videos with others and comment on posts – some students are using this as an alternative to Facebook, which is more likely to be monitored by parents.
What they say: “Create fast, short videos and share them with the world.”
What it is: a social media site where you can create and share videos up to 36 seconds in length, comment on others’ videos and chat with friends.
What they say: “Qooh.me is a social site that allows people who find you interesting to ask you anonymous questions so they can know you better.”
What it is: a site where users can ask each other questions which are completely anonymous.
What they say : “Ask and answer. Find out what people want to know about you!”
What it is: Similar to Qooh.me, students sometimes share their Ask.fm address on other social media sites such as Instagram to encourage questions from others.
One site some upper primary and secondary students use which has a 17 plus requirement in the terms and conditions:
KIK messenger –
What they say: “Kik is the fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger that connects you to everyone you love to talk to”.
What it is: an app that allows users to contact anyone at no cost. Users must know the username in order to initiate a chat with another, however some advertise this information on other social network sites and therefore have many people they do not know contacting them.
In many cases, the default settings on these apps generally are open unless the user purposefully goes in and changes the settings, so if students are using these, it is important for them to know about how to maintain their privacy settings; on each and every app.
What can schools do to develop cybersmart students?
Planning, open communication and positive relationships are all key in managing this area. Even though schools hope they will never have to deal with complex ‘worst case scenarios’ such as students engaging in cyberbullying, sexting or meeting with adult strangers that they have met online, it is important that all staff are aware of the types of behaviours kids can engage, so that staff are prepared to handle the issues if they ever do arise.
Two key areas teachers must be familiar with are cyberbullying and sexting.
It is important that teachers are aware of the difference between cyberbullying and cyberagression. A lot of behavior is labeled bullying inappropriately, however to deal with these issues effectively, they need to clearly identified, so that appropriate actions can be taken. Donna Cross has done extensive work in this area, and finds that the differentiating features between cyber bullying and cyber aggression are in the intent to harm, whether the act is repeated and how severe the harm is.
In cases of cyber bullying, the response of the teacher to a student reporting this issue is key. Most students will report to a parent or teacher, but an additional safety net is to put a link on the school website/learning management system to a web counselor from a site such as kids help line. http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/
Sexting is sending another person an inappropriate sexual image, usually of oneself. It is developmentally normal for students to experiment and push boundaries in this area, but the increase in the act of sexting is due to exposure to our highly sexualized media and in response to peer pressure. It can also be a test of power or trust in a relationship, or may be a sign of a teen displaying at risk behavior (a sign that they are looking for help).
Most common scenarios are between romantic partners (or those they hope to be romantically involved with) and exchange between partners that are then shared beyond the couple.
It is important for teachers and parents to respond in a way that doesn’t demonise technology, and to explore underlying issues, but it is vital that students understand the implications of these actions, especially as they currently carry the possibility of criminal convictions. You can read more here.
Teaching about Cybersafety
The Cybersmart program provides a wide range of resources for students, teachers, parents and libraries. These include interactive online activities, videos, workshops, physical resources and more. Teaching about being cybersafe also fits well into many of the General Capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum, particularly Information and Communication Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Behavior, Personal and Social Competence and Intercultural Understanding.
For those within Brisbane Catholic Education, a range of Cybersmart resources will soon be available for loan through the ResourceLink library. All schools throughout Australia may order these resources for free from the Cybersmart website here.
Please take the time to check out the excellent Cybersmart Website, and think seriously about developing a cybersafety curriculum for your school – the possibilities of technology are wonderful, but as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility!
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