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1. Every single one of them has an iPod or iPhone, even those from less wealthy families.
2. Every single one of them is using some form of social networking. The most popular seem to be Instagram and Facebook.
3. They are communicating mainly through texting and FaceTime, mostly where their parents can't see/hear them. One thing I learned this year is that if you have wifi you can text with an iPod. I skipped straight to iPhone without ever having an iPod, and no one I know owns an iPod (again, it's all iPhones), so this caught me off guard.
4. Students ARE aware of privacy issues online. By and large, they know better than to give out personal information and are aware of how to use privacy settings. But by the same token...
5. They have no conception that a friend could ever betray them - say, by taking a photo and copying it or the like. Their trust in their friends is absolute.
6. They know not everyone online is who they claim to be, but are overwhelmingly convinced that everyone THEY meet is honest and genuine.
7. They are measuring popularity, at least in part, by the number of followers they have on social networking sites.
8. They are unaware that they can betray their identity through photographs they post. For example, they know better than to post their full name, but have no problem posting a pic of their school with the caption "my school."
Of these, numbers 4-8 are the biggest concerns to me. It seems like we, as teachers and a society, have done a good job communicating about online safety to our children, but there are some issues that still desperately need addressing. To me, the big ones are:
1. Teachers and parents need to stay informed about new social networking phenomena. We need to join them, understand them, and know which ones kids are using.
2. Somehow, we need to make kids understand that just because someone is your friend or boy/girlfriend doesn't mean they can't forward or copy information. They need to know what a screenshot is and how easy it is to grab one.
3. We need to make them more aware of how easily they can communicate personal information. They already know not to do it directly. The problem is that they're doing it indirectly.
4. We need a way to show them that of their 300 Instagram followers, chances are that several are not who they seem.
We've done a good job teaching online safety, or digital citizenship or whatever you want to call it. But now it needs to become personal.
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