Safety in Cyberspace
Protecting Your Children Online
ALL STUDENTS THESE DAYS ARE computer literate and the majority use social networking sites for more than just communicating with friends. The sites are used for homework and discussions, organising school events and contacting students overseas.
Social networking is a great way to communicate, but it also has a negative side – that is cyber bullying and the subsequent security risks. ConsumerReports.com confirmed that there are 7.5 million children under 13 years of age with a Facebook account (which is against Facebooks terms and conditions of use). That is 7.5 million children in danger of becoming prey to online predators, cyber-bullying and websites that are not appropriate for their young age to handle. Students need to be aware they have to protect their identity and to understand that many things, including emotions, are difficult to communicate while on the social sites. Anything posted online needs to be scrutinised as it can be damaging to the person’s reputation.
Schools have a responsibility to teach their students about the correct behaviour while online. Christian schools, in the main, are extremely aware of this topic and try to convey how to act responsibly while ‘socialising’ on the sites.
Students are encouraged to join social networking, particularly for their homework. However, they need to know about laws concerning defamation and privacy for their own protection and the protection of their school.
Christian schools are making it a priority to set in place a policy on social networking and cyber bullying. They are teaching their students to have respect for others.
As well as the teachers playing a role in this education, parents are encouraged to talk to their children and watch what they are doing online. It is easy for students to ‘slip over’ onto some sites that are not meant for young people. Some Christian schools are running workshops for parents who are interested in learning about social networking, so they are aware of the positives and negatives of their children being online.
“I believe we live in a new age and our young people face pressures never seen before,” Nicolle Lucas, mother of a teenager explains. “We have a culture that is fast paced and instantaneous, demanding information at the click of a button. The world has become much more accessible through computers and software allowing us to gain access into people’s lives. Social networking in Australia such as Facebook has been added as a communication tool.
“Like anything, it can be used for our good or detriment. A child needs positive influences within the home, church and preferably school environment. The benefit of children receiving a Christ centred education that warns of potential hazards and also embraces modern technology, can only have positive effects on their future. It is important that they are up to date with technology but shown how to use this phenominal tool in a safe and positive manner.”
Dr David Nockles, Headmaster of Macarthur Anglican School says, “There is much debate about the benefits and dangers of the cyber world and the use of social networking sites. The increasing use and access to social media, especially by young people, has rightly caught the attention of our society and the debate about the appropriate use and access seems to escalate daily. There is, however, a great danger in pigeonholing how educators and schools respond to this dynamic relationship forum and by thinking that responses to the issues that arise lay solely in the cyberworld. They do not. Most instances of, inappropriate relationships that are conducted via social media, can and have been experienced in all modes of communication and relationships with which adolescents and young people engage. The issues are not new, the media is.
“There are some differences of note; namely the legal limitations and the permanent nature of comments and images that are posted. In these areas in particular schools and parents need to inform and educate young people to ensure that they understand the consequences of misusing new technologies.
“All that being said the way that schools deal with social media should not be all that different from the way they deal with the general conversations young people and adolescents have across all the media they use. That is, we need to challenge our students to always relate with others in ways that enhance the conditions their heart and form their character.
“Christ’s admonition to love our neighbour applies as much to the brief whispers in the corridor, the scribbled note between peers or the blog and forum discussions in cyber world. Harm and good can be done in each of these media; it is the permanency of the information that changes. Face to face communication and that taking place in the cyberworld are part of our world…hence part of God’s world. The law of love applies in the cyberworld as well!
“Dealing with problems that arise in the cyberworld are the same and need to be dealt with in the same way as matters in the playground. We need to build self-discipline, encourage character development, love our neighbors and above all honour God through our words and actions. Consequences are one and the same no matter what media is being used. It is in this context therefore that schools seeking to educate students within a Christian worldview need to manage both the old and the new forms of communication. Considering the potential for students to be misguided in their choice of actions and therefore to behave in ways inconsistent with the principle of love, education and monitoring of social media must be a priority.
“Great caution needs to be taken to separate social media into a separate category. It is different yes; just as writing a note is different to a playground conversation. We need to educate and change the heart not the mode of communication.”
by Lynn Goldsmith