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Social Media Awareness

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photo credit: Highways Agency via photopin cc

Earlier this week I shared a blog post about some of the dangers of SnapChat and how many images were stolen as accounts here hacked.

This week on Facebook, some one shared a link from one of our local school districts. It was a message to parents and the community about some misuse of social media and also some of the dangers of some of those outlets. The article references a couple of social media outlets that allow users to remain anonymous as they post and communicate with others. It’s another example of how both parents and students need to be aware of how social media is used and to be wise in what is posted.

Here’s a copy of the article that your can read on the Wayne Local Schools website.

This week there has been widespread misuse of social media in our schools and community. The content of related messages has been nothing short of disappointing. For this reason we want to bring your attention to a couple of concerning apps called “Yik Yak” and “Ask.fm.”

Part of Yik Yak and Ask.fm’s allure besides the fact that it lets kids communicate with one another; users are anonymous. Users do not have to establish a profile or password. Yik Yak uses GPS location data to bring comments to a user’s feed from other users nearby. In other words, it enables and encourages communities to share information within a geographical boundary. Unfortunately the anonymity of these posts allows individuals who may have malicious intent to write comments about others that may be hurtful, harassing and possibly disturbing. This week this advent in technology created a social media phenomenon we have never seen in Waynesville; for this reason the school district has worked to block Yik Yak from being accessed via our internet network. Additionally we made contact with the company and requested a “geo fence” be placed around our schools; which restricts access to the app or site when a device is in locations identified as schools. This however does not address the issue of misuse outside of predefined geographic boundaries. The founders of Yik Yak have stated, “It’s disheartening to see our app being used in an unintended way.”

Awareness of one’s digital footprint and digital citizenship, for that matter extends across all actions online and off. For example, nearly every social network requires users to confirm their real age before downloading. In the case of Yik Yak, a push notification appears asking users to confirm they’re older than 17 before using the app. Yet many kids under 17 have downloaded and may continue to download this app and others. Remind kids that lying is as damaging to their digital reputation as it is to their offline one.

Parents and students need to be aware that anonymity is an illusion in the digital world. Hiding behind an app like Yik Yak will not prevent criminal charges or school discipline when students make anonymous comments or threats.

We will continue our efforts to educate our students regarding appropriate behavior and the treatment of others, both in the traditional sense and in the context of existing and new technologies. We urge parents to partner with us in addressing this important issue. Here are some suggested steps:

• Check your child’s phones for apps such as Yik Yak, Ask.fm, Snapchat, Kik, Whisper and Tinder, among others.

• Review the settings on your children’s phones and consider blocking apps not rated as age appropriate. For instance, Yik Yak is rated for ages 17+ so if you choose to restrict based on your child’s age; most will not be able to access this app. If they have an iOS device: Go to “settings,” select “general” and tap “enable restrictions.” You can set restrictions for “installing apps” and “in-app purchases.”

• Some kids are really good at getting around device settings. So set rules and get familiar or cyber-wise about what they’re up to online so you can see if your rules are being followed. Software such as SpectorSoft records and replays all of your child’s internet activity and provides a detailed report.

• Have a discussion with your child regarding the respectful treatment of others and to expect respectful treatment in return. The mistreatment and disrespect of others, whether in person or through anonymous means, is never acceptable.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Scary News About SnapChat

200,000 More Reasons to Delete SnapchatA number of students I know use the app SnapChat. For those who may not be familiar with it, it is a photo sharing app that allows you to share photos with people who follow you, but is supposed to allow you to control how long the photo is available.  You can send a photo to someone and set how many seconds they can view it. A recent addition is the SnapChat “story” where an image or video is available to all followers, but for a limited amount of time.

Since news of this broke on Friday I’ve received at least 50 texts, emails, and other messages about it.

I’m a little torn. I don’t want to say “I told you so.” More like– “NO!!! I tried to warn people.”

More than 4 million people have read my post, “Why you should delete Snapchat.” The PDF of that post has been downloaded 45,000 times. It’s been taught as an example of a persuasive argument in just about every state in the United States.

But here we are. My efforts weren’t enough.

Somewhere, in the ether of the internet, are 200,000 images posted online without permission. That’s on top of the countless number of Tumblr blogs and other websites dedicated to sharing captured Snaps.

The facts of what I wrote about Snapchat in August 2013 haven’t changed

  1. Snapchat is built on a lie that digital images disappear. They don’t. Once you take a picture with your device and send it to another person you’ve given up control of that image. Itmight get deleted. Once you send it via text, email, or upload it to an app… you lose control.
  2. You think you’re anonymous online, but you aren’t. Whether it’s Snapchat or Yik Yak or an online forum, everything you post online points directly back to you. Everything. That happens at the device level with metadata. It happens with your ISP or mobile provider. And it happens with app developers at the server level. The only one who doesn’t know who everyone is on an anonymous app are the actual users. And, as we’re about to learn with the Snapchat leak, facial recognition is a double-edged sword.
  3. Snapchat was created as a safe way to sext. In the past year since the January 2013 uproar, Snapchat has done a very good job navigating further and further away from it’s genesis story of a safe sexting app. I’ve acknowledged that publicly. They introduced some new features, they’ve said all the right things in the press, they’ve educated users, and– even for me– they truly have done a good job trying to pivot Snapchat from the salacious history, which indeed fueled the initial popularity, to something better and more mature. But they can’t get away from their history or the subset of users who use the app as a safe way to sext. As Mitt Romney learned in 2012… you can’t “Shake the Etch-a-Sketch” and just tell a new story sometimes. If they were serious about getting rid of the subset of users who sext with the app they would invest a few million dollars to develop a feature that detected nudity and blocked it. (ala facial recognition in Facebook or iPhoto.)
  4. The Snapchat leaders seem more interested in blaming others than blaming their app. When they settled with the FCC, it was a misunderstanding and they didn’t own responsibility. When user names and passwords were leaked, it wasn’t their incompetence as developers– it was unscrupulous people wanting access to an unlimited treasure trove of private data. And in this latest leak, it’s not the fact that Snapchat has an open unofficial API that even an untrained developer can crack into within a few minutes then build and release iOS and/or Android apps on the official marketplace— it’s these 3rd parties who are to blame. We all know people like this. Whether it’s entitlement or immaturity or arrogance, they can’t simply admit that their leadership failed, that Snapchat is bigger than they are capable of leading, or that their skills as a developer are not up to snuff. Instead they play the “Hey, I’m just a kid, I make mistakes” card. Snapchat is valued at anywhere from $2 billion to $10 billion. (Though with existing and pending litigation I can’t see it.) Isn’t it time for the leadership at Snapchat to be held responsible? Shouldn’t the board, likely full of VC investors, make a decision to remove the founders and put in place someone capable of finishing the job? Surely, if the eventual goal of Snapchat is to sell it to Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, or whoever wants it– the maximum value of Snapchat will never be achieved with a bumbling leadership team who can’t publicly own failure. Duh.

If anything, what I wrote in August 2013 has been validated time and again. Which only leads me to the same conclusion: Delete the app.

Do not trust an app built like this. And do not trust people like this.

There are white hats and black hats in this world, Snapchat wears a black hat.

Beyond “I Told You So”

Right now, nearly every hour, a story is coming out blaming Snapchat for this leak. And they are 100% to blame. No doubt many will join me in calling the Snapchat board to remove Snapchat’s founders for their incompetence.

But, emotionally, I’m just not interested in “I told you so” any more than I truly care about who is the CEO of an app people should just delete.

Just like there wasn’t anything in it for me when I wrote the original post in August 2013, I am not somehow filled with pride that this has happened and I was right all along. (If you didn’t know, I wrote the post in response to requests from a group of moms at a seminar. I couldn’t answer their question about Snapchat sufficiently on the fly, I told them to watch my blog and I’d write some reasons you should delete it.)

So here’s what I’m feeling about the Snapchat leak:

  • I feel terrible for the people who will now pay a penalty for their lack of understanding on how the internet works. Yes, we should hold Snapchat responsible. And I believe that the FBI will hold those who have leaked images of minors will be arrested for distribution of child pornography.
  • For those who have had images leaked, I hope they seek and get justice. What was done to them was wrong, it’s against the law, and the perpetrators may have had a good reason (to expose Snapchat’s vulnerability) but that’s not reason enough to violate the law.
  • I hope the public learns from this leak. For those who will have images posted, I hope they’ve learned that no matter what is promised, anything shared online is ultimately public. Take solace in knowing you aren’t alone. But make a correction in your behavior, as well, so that it never happens to you again.
  • As a Christian, I believe all humans are ultimately fallible. This isn’t about Snapchat– it’s about us. (Ourselves and the people we thought we trusted.) We make mistakes, people we trust betray us, and we all live in a space between blaming ourselves and blaming others for a lot of stuff. (Not just this leak) This is what we do as humans. While we all have good in us, as we’re made in the image of God, we also have evil in us. Last week I wrote about a new research study about teenagers and sexting. In talking about this with some friends I came to this conclusion: 100% of us are susceptible to sexting. The reason many haven’t is that the opportunity hasn’t arisen in our lives. The hormones of sex and the dopamine rewards of our inborn reward system are simply stronger than us. We all need Jesus. We need his strength to resist. We need forgiveness when we mess up. And we need His hope (and the actions of His people) for freeing the world of sexual exploitation. But I don’t see myself any better than those who have leaked images or had images leaked. And neither should you.
  • Let’s not forget that the leak is about sexual exploitation and the power of shame in our society. In the coming days it’ll be easy to throw people under the bus and blame them for taking these images. But there’s a big difference between exchanging these images with someone you trust (or are flirting with) and having them published, perhaps with their usernames or real names. Trust me, those affected will feel terrible enough as it is. Let’s not forget that the release of these images is illegal. (Do I even need to say it… DON’T LOOK AT THEM!)
  • These aren’t 200,000 images. These are 200,000 people. That’s a lot of hurting people out there. Ugh, my heart hurts.
  • I’ve got more work to do. One thing that’s become clear over the past year is that there aren’t a lot of people actually trying to educate teenagers about social media in a useful way.Scaring them doesn’t work. Instead, I’ve found that helping them understand how basic principles of social media play out in the real world as well as creating some common language with the adults in their lives really, really helps. In so many ways– I’m sick of talking about social media. But I also don’t feel like I can stop because the need is so great.

Why Have You Deleted Snapchat?

I’d love to hear from people who have had enough and deleted Snapchat. Now that you aren’t using it, what are you using instead?

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Images over Words

snapchatSeveral weeks ago I posted about the growth of Instagram and how it surpassed Twitter in number of users. It appears that people prefer images over words.

After meeting with a group of junior high students, Tim Elmore found that trend is showing up in how teens communicate with each other. Text messaging is being replaced by apps that allow teens to share images.

Here’s a small portion of what he posted on May 6th about the growth of images over words.

Snapchat — an app that allows users to send photos to one another that disappear after a few seconds—has taken over many teen’s portable devices. So has Instagram. It may well be the future of phone interaction. Just like Facebook, once parents and teachers began to figure out how to use text messaging, students were bound to find new ways to communicate.

It wasn’t that long ago I reported to readers that teens today send about 3,000 texts a month, or about a hundred a day. That’s changing now. And not just for teens but for all ages. As a whole, people are texting less now than we used to. According to Chetan Sharma Consulting, “The average U.S. cell phone user sends about 628 text messages per quarter, down 8 percent from a year ago.”

Technology and communication are ever-changing. We’ve gone from land line to cell phone to email to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat and other forms of staying connected. For those who work with students, it’s interesting to see where the trends go.

What do you see students using to communicate with each other?

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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