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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Addicted to your Phone?

This video was posted on Youth Ministry Media Blog and carries the title I Forgot My Phone on YouTube.  It’s a pretty interesting (convicting, maybe?) look at how phones have become a part of just about everything we do. I especially liked the scenes in the bowling alley and birthday party. Check it out and see if we find ourselves somewhere in this video.

Bible on iPads, iPhones and Other Devices at Youth Group

youversionWe have a number of our students who use their iPhones, Kindles, iPads and other devices to look up scripture. Most of the time I’m doing the same thing. This article was posted today on The Youth Cartel website. Thought it brought an interesting perspective to whether a youth worker allows these devices or not.

This is a link to the entire article. I just pasted in the reasons they offered. Thoughts?

1. Brain Based Research demonstrates kids learn best when we integrate technology into the classroom. So why wouldn’t this also apply to the youth room? “Technology is valued within our culture. It is something that costs money and that bestows the power to add value. By giving students technology tools, we are implicitly giving weight to their school activities. Students are very sensitive to this message that they, and their work, are important.” – From article “The Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students”

2. They are on their devices anyways. You can monitor and police and take away… but that is exhausting. It’s easier to allow the devices and set some ground rules and gasp in shock… kids will usually respect the rules you set. When you show them enough trust to allow them the use of electronics, they will not want to lose the privilege.

3. I am training for real life. Our students do not live in a bubble void of Apple products. When students leave our youth ministry they will still be bombarded with technology and the distractions there of. I would rather train and equip my kids to be able to use technology effectively in and out of the church setting. I want my own kids to acknowledge and be prepared to handle the “temptation of distraction” of the devices in their possession. Isn’t it better to be able to learn how to use technology to learn God’s Word, as opposed to sneaking it under their jackets and running off to the bathroom to text? I want my kids to know that technology IS distracting, so how do we deal with it and turn it around for our benefit instead?

4. I want the challenge. If church is boring and kids are playing Star Wars Angry Birds during my youth talk, then I have not done my job of engaging them. Same holds true for big church. People vote with their attention. When something is captivating, interesting and well executed it commands attention. Like a movie or TV show that has won me over… I close my laptop when I am really engaged with what I am watching on TV. In church… I fiercely take notes on Evernote when it’s “that good.”

5. It levels the playing field. Yes, I am all for Bible literacy and for knowing how to actually use a hard copy Bible. We still play the books of the Bible song in the car on the way to school, so my kids are not ignorant of such things. But we don’t teach Latin anymore either. Is the only Bible on our shelves the Latin Vulgate? We live in a new day, with the Bible available and accessible to us in so many wonderful ways. Why not embrace that reality and use it to help kids learn? Kids with learning disabilities or ADHD can often participate much more effectively when technology isn’t banned from church. Some kids learn best with a hands on hard copy edition of the Bible. Some kids (and adults) do not. Technology can help kids who struggle. Many students will track with your lesson much more efficiently and accurately than without their devices. When a brand new kid walks into church and sits at my table, I hate seeing them feel dumb when they have no idea (because they are new to church) of how to look up a Bible verse. Everyone stares at them. They shrink in their seat and fumble through the pages. Instead, I can in 30 seconds install the Bible app for them on their phone, and they can easily navigate through that. And guess what? This un-churched kid now has an easy to use Bible in their possession that didn’t cost anything from my youth budget.