Managing the risk when using social networks

Banning and preventing social media is not the answer.

Schools need to manage the risk as it is not going to go away. Banning its use and limiting the opportunity is not the answer. Young people LOVE social networking using all forms of technology.

It is a digital revolution. By nature a revolution is about change and is all about moving from the old into the new. In any revolution one needs to plan for and manage the number of casualties that may occur along the way.

Young people can learn from teachers to help them learn safe and effective social and learning habits using technology.

Cyber-bulling is a reality and can have some unfortunate consequences. Bullying in general is more of a reality and schools/workplaces have to manage the risk the best way they can. Most situations that lead to bullying cannot be prevented or banned.

Education can go a long way to helping young people realise the dangers and helping them to learn preventative strategies while they are using Web 2.0 social networking technology in the schools.

Young people love being spooked and love horror stories so let’s help them learn to manage the risk of any harm happening to them along the way.

I agree with much of this article from the Australian newspaper The Age.

JEWEL TOPSFIELD     July 24, 2010

SCHOOLS are failing to keep up with the digital revolution or communicate using social media because they are spooked by cyber-bullying and Facebook horror stories.

A survey of 140 Victorian principals found schools were not only lagging behind the rest of the community in the use of social media but were also struggling to get direction from the government on how to deal with problems created by its inappropriate use.

Only 14 per cent of schools had an after-hours social media policy for staff and only 13 per cent had one for students.

”The world has changed and the constant bad Facebook press and its role in cyber bullying have meant that schools are being asked for leadership on the issue and in reality they spend their time trying to catch up to the evolving technology,” said Denis Masseni, a multimedia lecturer at Monash University and director of digital business Sponsor-ed.

His report, Why schools are spooked by social media, said while 43 per cent of Australian small businesses had attracted new customers through social media networks and they were used by more than 70 per cent of not-for-profits, schools had almost no presence in the space. Many of the surveyed schools could only see negatives in the use of Twitter, blogs and e-newsletters.

But Dr Masseni said changing the school newsletter to a blog style – where comments were invited – could open up two-way communications and allow schools to myth bust.

If a parent posted a comment such as: ”I’ve heard Mr Smith the year 7 maths teacher did nothing else but teach to the NAPLAN test for two weeks leading up to the test itself,” for example, the school would be able to respond. ”In a world where it is difficult to get the busy parent in the school yard, the only way of building community beyond the physical is online,” Dr Masseni said.

The report suggested maths teachers could tweet weekly trivia questions, health and well-being co-ordinators could tweet healthy eating tips and principals could use Twitter to build their accessibility and personality.

At Mount Erin College in Frankston a teacher regularly tweets updates such as: ”Good luck to the INDONESIAN students heading to the snow for the first time in their lives! Remember to rug up!”

The school also has a blog called The Daily Insider and is considering setting up a Facebook page, which would link to the blog and tweets. All comments on the blog are moderated before they are posted, and Mount Erin has a clear policy on the ethical use of social media.

Despite the opportunities provided by social media, Dr Masseni said schools needed to monitor social media and develop an after-hours-use policy. Several of the principals surveyed had been victims of Facebook hate groups, and were not aware that applications such as Google alerts and could alert them when a group had been established before it gained traction.

And Dr Masseni said while there was a reference in the Victorian Institute of Teaching Code of Conduct not to email, text, or chat online with students without a valid context, this was not enough given what can happen to reputations on the internet.

”The world has moved on and social media policy needs to be dealt with as a separate topic,” Dr Masseni said.


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