Helping students understand location settings

In the last week of school I had an opportunity to discuss with students from Years 7 through to 11 the importance of thinking about their use of Social Media while they are on their holiday break. There was a consistent resounding cheer when I mentioned they were about to immerse themselves in their various social networks when they finished school for the year and were in the enviable position of determining what it was they wanted to do with their day. For many of the students I teach, that means communicating with their friends over Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a broken record reiterating the ‘think before you post’ message, important as it is. I’m always on the lookout for articles, posts or videos that can help me tell the story that needs telling. I find video a really effective way of getting a point across, but it can be hard to find new material. Having a son who trawls YouTube for a living (or so it seems!) proved fortuitous on the weekend before my sessions. He had come across a Social Media Experiment conducted by YouTuber Jack Vale. It was perfect for the message I wanted to convey about making sure your privacy settings are set to friends only and turning off location settings on apps that don’t necessarily require them. Take a look yourself.

Before watching, I did preface with the students that the people in the video were expressing surprise and some of their reactions were bleeped out. It was fascinating watching their reactions during the short few minutes. Many of their faces echoed the expressions of the people on the screen as they realised that all of this information was shared publicly and these people could be found easily because of the location data embedded in photos shared in spaces like Instagram. It was effective across all Year levels, with many of the younger students coming to me at the end of the session to get help finding where location services was located on their phones so that they could turn it off in Apps not requiring it for functionality.

Sometimes we assume our students are savvy users of technology, but my experience tells me they often need direction. Finding opportunities to share and discuss information in our often crowded curriculums is difficult, but we need to make time. Parents are often not in command of knowledge like this and can’t provide necessary guidance. My message to my students at the end of the session was that there is a need for them to be informed users of technology, not ignorant users who can make serious errors by sharing information unknowingly. This means understanding dashboard settings of programs they use on their computers and general settings of devices such as phones that are a part of their everyday lives.

It was time well spent!

Teenagers and Social Media – new research from Pew Internet

The Pew Internet American Life Project conducts regular research into the use of technology by all sectors of the US population. Their latest research focuses on teenagers and their use of Social Media sites. Here are some of the key findings from the report:

Teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. For the five different types of personal information that we measured in both 2006 and 2012, each is significantly more likely to be shared by teen social media users in our most recent survey.

 Teen Twitter use has grown significantly: 24% of online teens use Twitter, up from 16% in 2011.

 The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.

 Focus group discussions with teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful “drama,” but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing.

 60% of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of
confidence in their ability to manage their settings.

 Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks, and mask information they don’t want others to know; 74% of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list.

 Teen social media users do not express a high level of concern about third-party access to their data; just 9% say they are “very” concerned.

 On Facebook, increasing network size goes hand in hand with network variety, information sharing, and personal information management.

 In broad measures of online experience, teens are considerably more likely to report positive experiences than negative ones. For instance, 52% of online teens say they have had an experience online that made them feel good about themselves.

The research is from the US, but I do think there are messages to take from this that are applicable to the Australian experience. My discussions with students indicate that Facebook is on the wane, with many gravitating to sites like Instagram for their social network experience. My observations in discussions with parents is that Instagram is not seen as much of a threat to their children as is Facebook. There’s more of a comfortable willingness to allow their children to participate there. I think we need to help our parents understand that sites like Instagram are social networks, not just photo sharing places. They require just as much open discussion about things like oversharing, managing privacy settings and who you add as a friend as does a site like Facebook.

There are some very encouraging signs in their key findings with quite a high percentage of teenagers actively managing privacy settings and taking steps to manage their reputation online. What does concern me is teenagers apparent low level of concern about 3rd party access to their data. The report says that insights from focus groups suggests that teenagers may not have a good sense that their data is being used by any third parties. Again, this finding echoes some of my experiences with students who seem unaware that sites may be sharing information or mining their data to discover their likes and dislikes. We do need to find room in our busy curriculums to have discussions with students about social media and what might be happening with their data. An informed citizen is in a position to make sound decisions, and surely that’s what we want for our young people in today’s world.

I’d encourage you to follow this link and take a read of the full report.

Is it just me?

Yeah, why would they?

When a group like Invisible Children launch an online campaign that ignites teenagers to think of a cause outside of their Facebook stream, they face criticism “…for not spending enough directly on the people it intends to help and for oversimplifying the 26-year-old conflict involving the LRA and its leader, Kony, a bush fighter wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rddVuoy9

The narrator of their video, Jason Russell, suffered a psychotic episode, with this explanation offered from his wife, Danica Russell.

“Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks. Even for us, it’s hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention — both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days,” Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109711,00.html#ixzz1rde5gjQa

Meanwhile, Kevin Systrom, founder of Instagram, a marketer who learned to code at night, has had this said about him on a TNW post.

Instagram‘s CEO, Kevin Systrom, will go down in history as one of the greatest Silicon Valley success stories of our generation.

Is it just me, or does the world seemed skewed? When people trying to do something to make the world better receive criticism, and people who make a photo sharing app are lauded as success stories, then I think we need to do some re-evaluation of our priorities.

But maybe that’s just me.