What happens on the Internet, doesn’t necessarily stay on the Internet

Yesterday was an exciting day. We had the first student begin to follow our school twitter account, @lifewax. Now the word should spread like wildfire and before you know it our whole community will be on board(pipe dream). A boy can dream can’t he! I was excited to discover this and couldn’t wait to congratulate the young man in person, your allowed to do that right. Here’s where the fun comes in, when you get the email about a new follower you probably click on their profile to check them out. I did this and discovered he was followed by some other students. This led to a rabbit hole I was not sure I wanted to go down. I was bailed out by the end of the ALDS playoff game and a dead laptop battery.

I saw some things that peeled back the layers of our students and opened my eyes to what my #PLN on twitter has been saying for the past 7 months about teaching these kids how to be digital citizens and behaving online.  WOW, where to start, I can’t say I wasn’t totally shocked because kids are kids. I might be old but I remember the things that were exciting to me then that would make me and my parents: swearing, rap music, being friends with people they didn’t approve of. Now twitter opens up a whole new realm of possibilities because it’s online and parents can’t/don’t patrol everything their children do on the internets/cell phones. So where do parents/educators(i will cover how and why for educators later) step in when the  activities listed above aren’t enough and students start; sharing photos, sharing personal data, connecting to people you don’t know and can’t verify, etc. It’s a tricky situation but one that must be addressed quickly before the students start applying for jobs, college, etc and their data is online to be evaluated in terms of their acceptance and employment.

Where to start and what to say. I am your biggest advocate when it comes to using your technology and apps to enhance your learning. You already know how to use them why not put them to use to further your education. I am working on that from my end. What happens out side of the school day is another manner all together. You are connected and communicating with your friends and tweeps all the time and I think that is amazing. Your face to face communication skills suffer but you are able to clearly and effectively communicate your thoughts and feelings to those around you in ways we old people can’t fathom. This brings me to the big but in the conversation: BUT you actions have consequences. You are in control over everything you do online. Will it burn you one day or get you recognized for your talents? As you get older and asked to be treated as adults you will be held in that light even in what you do online. It’s no secret college review boards and employers search social networks to find out information about their employees. Your digital lives will exist forever. You need to know and patrol what it says about you.  Have you ever tried to delete a facebook profile? How about a twitter account? These things don’t go away easy and some thought needs to go into them
Then there is the 800 pound gorilla in the room: cyber-bullying. I was checking out the student who followed @lifewax last night and quickly found 2 examples of cyber-bullying. It’s nasty and not something you ever want to be a part off. It leads to outcomes no one wants to be a part of.

Rule of thumb for online communication:

“If you wouldn’t say it to someones face don’t post it online”

You are the first and most important line. Do you know what your kids are doing online? Do you know who they are talking to, connecting with, sharing with? Is this any different than letting them go to a friends house, the mall or the park? Would you let them go anywhere with people you didn’t know and/or approve of? How is this different than connecting with others online. On facebook you have to accept friends before they can see what you post/discuss on your wall. On twitter anyone can follow you and see what you post/tweet regardless of if you follow them or not. *there is a privacy setting on twitter you can activate where you have to accept everyone that follows you. So how do you talk to your kids about this:
1. Look up some literature to help:
A. Internet safety for Teens: http://atg.wa.gov/InternetSafety/Teens.aspx
B. Teaching children about staying safe on the internet: Article

2. Talk to your kids about this. The worst thing you can do is pretend it doesn’t happen. I am not sure how to go about this conversation but this link will provide you with more literature if you need it.

3. What I would do:

A. Have discussions about the wonderful tool the internet is(it is and I believe it)

B. Discuss what is allowed and not allowed on the internet under my roof, this includes cell phones. I will pay for the phones as a means to control whats on it. When they want their own freedom they can pay for it. I might even make a fun poster as a family and put it near the computer as a reminder.

C. There would be set hours when the children were allowed on the computer and when they are not. Most computer operating systems have this feature included and you can set it per account.

D. Each child would have their own user account on the computer where their abilities would be limited. They would not be able to: change their password, change system settings, edit the registry, install programs, modify browser settings: history, cookies, passwords, to name a few.

E. All child accounts and passwords will be shared with the parents for monitoring at all times.

F. The internet will be filtered at the router level by a DNS service. (I use openDns right now at my house and it works great)

This may seem like a lot but remember: Kids make mistakes and it’s our job as adults/parents/teachers to help them learn from these mistakes so they don’t negative harm them later in their lives. Please ask your children about this and find out what happens on the internet in my child’s name


We sit in an awkward position at this juncture: we realize the power of social media and it’s benefits but we have to deal with a myriad of issues that go along with it;

-Does your district allow you to use it to connect with parents and students?
-How do you handle friending students on various sites?
-What role do we play when we see bad decisions being made that aren’t illegal?
-How are we allowed to demonstrate proper use and etiquette when students can’t see or use it in school? So by default these opportunities happen outside of school which goes back to a previous comment.

As an educator I feel it is my responsibility to teach the students on the proper use and engagement of the tools available on the internet. I also feel more strongly that this is an issue for the parents to deal with at home more than me, but because it has crept into our classroom this gives me a chance to touch on it with my students.

I thought about this a lot during my journey as a teacher and social media user over the last 7 months. 7 months, I know I am late to the game. Now that I’m in I am giving it everything I have. I am trying to learn all the ways that this can better my classroom. From this point of view it hasn’t taken me long to determine the pitfalls and positives of social media in the classroom. As teachers we have to model the use we want to see in the students. If we aren’t users how will we know when something is awry. If a student comes to us with an issue and we aren’t familiar enough with the platform that doesn’t excuse us from assisting, it just puts us at a disadvantage as helpers. So we need to beg and plead with our districts to allow us to engage the students with the tools we have and more importantly with the tools the students are comfortable with to escalate the possibilities of learning. I read a great article and from a kindergarten teacher in Grand Prairie, TX about how he used his facebook page for his class and how he controlled the environment to add enormous value to his class. I loved this and it got me thinking how can we do this in our classes: here are some steps:

1. Start a blog: let students know you exist on the internet and you have a life outside the classroom. Share yourself, thoughts, ideas, passions. This demonstrates appropriate use as a forum for your thoughts and your life.

1b. On the blog find a place to put your tweets or facebook status updates: yes for the whole world to see! You will be held accountable to your students, but we have a higher calling here: consequences for our actions and maturity. Being able to let the students peer into your life should inspire them and maybe help you clean some things out.

2. Edmodo: It’s like facebook for schools except the power the teacher has have been expanded. We are using it currently in our classes and the kids love it. For the 1st 6 weeks I did all the posting now I am turning that over to the kids and they are excited.

3. Facebook: It’s taboo or not allowed in your district, try this on for size in terms of setting up your group: article. I am not saying fly in the face of your district policies but you won’t know unless you ask. The worst someone can do is say no and even that might open up a dialogue.

I was really motivated to write this today by what I discovered last night and hope that I can help parents, students and teachers make the best out of this thing we call the Internet. Please continue this discussion it the comments section, I want my students to see appropriate use live and in action!


One thought on “What happens on the Internet, doesn’t necessarily stay on the Internet”

  1. Love your advice for parents. As a lover of all things ICT I also am an advocate for not having computers in bedrooms, what are your thoughts? I teach year 7 I make them aware that they wouldn’t go out hand out pictures in the street of themselves in pjs so not setting privacy on photos is doing this. They are quite taken aback, we search a profile online that I have made and left open. We have debates about what is and isn’t ok from photos to language they use online.

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