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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