Focus of the presentation: social networking sites and primary school children. Are social networking sites safe for children? Can they be a valuable educational tool. Do children find their way onto adult social networking sites? Are there specific sites set up for children that offer an alternative to the adult social networking sites.Social networking sites are online sites where an individual can create a profile about themselves and interact with other individuals who belong to the same site. The individual has the ability to limit access to their friends only and set their access to private so their online profile is not public. However the profile remains the property of the social networking site therefore what is published on these sites belongs to the individuals who run them. The critics of social networking sites argue that children are not old enough to be aware of the dangers of these sites because they are more likely to disclose personal information in their conversations on the sites. Despite age limits children do gain access to these sites and this results in threats like cyberstalking, cyberbullying and the simple fact that what is disclosed online remains online permanently. Such a record can haunt the individual for the rest of their lives. Studies have shown that teenagers and young adults are often reckless in their disclosure of personal information and are surprised when employers or educators make judgements about them based on their online profiles. They believe that they should be entilted to privacy(Miller, Parsons and Lifer 2009)
Social networking sites are ‘web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile’, share it with others whom they regard as ‘friends’ and ‘view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others on the system’ (Boyd and Ellison 2007 p10 as cited in Henderson et al 2010 p.3) Here are some examples: Facebook, My Space and Bebo. Those specifically designed for children under the age of 13: Kidswirl, Kidsworld, FaceChipz now known as the Giant Hello and Kidzrocket. Most of the adult SNSs have age limits which prevent children under the age of 13 using the sites. A key factor in the debate about primary children using adult social networking sites is that they are finding ways of registering with or without adult assistance. Yet Facebook alone deletes 20 000 underage users a day (Levy Times News Feed 23 March 2011).
Social networking sites have many educational benefits such as cross cultural awareness developed through relationships with people from other countries. The ability to maintain past friendships when individuals have moved away. (Safety Web July 1 2010) Identity : social networking sites allow experimentation with identity and ‘positive self expresssion’ as children personalise their profile page and share interests with others by joining groups with likeminded interests. (Safety Web July 1 2010). Positive self esteem is the flow on effect of all this activity. Blogging has been used by sufferers of various illnesses as a way of charting their journey and giving them a voice and again allowing them to mix with like minded individuals. Used by the socially isolated to form friendship networks that help them battle depression. A 2008 study by Minnesota University demonstrated that children developed a positive attitude towards technology and had a forum to share their original creative expression. It also concluded that students could be educated in the traditional areas of education such as science, mathematics and history. (Science Daily June 21 2008)
Children need to be made aware of the dangers of ‘friends’ online. Social Networking site predators may discover personal information that can lead to the location of the child’s home or school. Even innocent photos can be used by predators to glean information about a child’s location. Children are more trusting of people and welcome people wishing to be their friends. They gauge their online success and popularity by the number of friends they have connected with. Children need to be educated and monitored by parents and schools about the reality of stranger danger on the internet. ‘Most students (71%) do not think that an Internet predator will contact them based on postings online. Furthermore, 63 percent do not fully understand the potential risk of Internet predators (i.e., their ability to track students on the Internet). It is clear that more education on the risk of cyber behaviours is needed.’ (Kite, Gable & Filippelli p. 162).
Information shared on social networking sites remains their forever. It is highly probable that children will behave in an inappropriate manner that is on the public record for educators and employers to discover in the future. Given the fallible nature of all human beings do we really want a record of all our childhood pranks and mischief following us into adulthood. Is the behaviour of the child really anyone else’s business other than the parents and school community? ‘There is evidence to suggest that, for a variety of reasons, including peer group pressure, young people are less cautious about postingprivate information to SNS than older users. For example, a July 2009 study by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA, 2009) found that: Often young people choose to be open and expressive. The option of protecting their privacy online often falls by the wayside in favour of wanting to stand out to others online .... Sometimes personal information was divulged without an understanding of the potential consequences of disclosure (for example, posting information about going on holiday and not realising that this could give an unintended recipient information about their whereabouts). (p. 8)’ (Henderson et al p 5)
Children have less ability to withstand name calling as do adults. They are open to attacks online from those who know them or know of them. Everyone knows that children’s friendships are not all plain sailing. Once upon a time home was a refuge from school bullies but technology allows it to follow them home. Kite, Gable and Filippelli discovered that children were less likely to report the bullying to parents or school teachers, ‘only 44 percent indicated that they would tell an adult if they were the victim of cyberbullying. When asked if they had been bullied while online, 10 percent indicated yes.’ (p162)
There is the ever present threat of children being exposed to inappropriate content while online. Research has shown that the keyword ‘sex’ is the 4th topped search word for tweens between the ages of 8 to 12 and ‘porn’ the top keyword for children under 7 (Online Social Networking Safety Tips) This might be considered similar to a child using a dictionary but one must remember that the child will be confronted with images based on these searches that would be confronting and far from age appropriate content. The adult social networking sites have advertising links attached to them that are again inappropriate for children. While inappropriate messages sent by unknown friends or even known friends is again a likely occurrence on adult social networking sites where there are no limitations on the type of messages that can be sent. One way of rectifying this situation is to set up blocking filters on the family computer which prevents access to sites and particular searches.
There are other social networking sites that have been designed to cater for children and are directly marketed to them. Some of these are Kidswirl, Club Penguin, Webkinz, Whyville, Kidzworld, Kidzui, Kidzrocket and the Giant Hello. ‘Club Penguin is a gaming and social networking site for kids started in October 2005 by two fathers in British Columbia, Canada. The target audience 8-14-year-olds create a virtual life online, earning coins to purchase clothes, toys, and play games. They also interact - including romantically. They initiate relationships and practice breakups all without setting eyes on the beloved as there are no pictures or other identifying information allowed.’ (Davidson L,’ All About Kids Website Club Penguin’) . Club Penguin has been criticised for encouraging consumerism and the development of off site ‘bawdy chat’ (Club Penguin reception www.wikipedia.com. There was also criticism of it being another time wasting activity that lead children away from other scheduled activities.Kidswirl is a social networking site designed to hep children, teenagers and parents to stay safe from online predators. The main priority of the site is ‘Kid Safety’. As a result, it is ‘free from foul language, inappropriate/sexual suggestive phrases and other words and phrases deemed inappropriate for kids’ (Feldman) It also allows parents and other users to make suggestions about the content and report inappropriate content; while the parent. control panel allows them to monitor their child’s activity on the website.(Feldman).Webkinz is based on a plush soft toy produced by the Canadian based Ganz company in 2005 (wikipedia) It has a protected Chat feature where children are only permitted to chat using prepared words and phrases and they interact with other Webkinz toys. It also has a built in filtering system which blocks unacceptable words or phrases and personally identifiable words phrases and numbers.
Ultimately social networking sites are part of the social landscape for children but there are some very real reasons to limit children’s access to adult social networking sites to avoid the threats associated with such sites. It is important for children to be educated about the dangers of ‘friends’ online. They should be made aware about the importance of privacy and the fact that information is permanent on the web. Children should be encouraged to report incidents of cyberbullying and educated about appropriate behaviour online.
Parents and Teachers should monitor the usage of children on the web. They should create an environment where they are aware of children’s behaviour and be ready to prevent them from making costly mistakes online. Ultimately children need close supervision when they are online and the significant adults in their lives need to be aware of their actions online and teach appropriate behaviours to make children positive digital citizens
SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES EDUCATIONAL TOOL OR THREAT ETL 523 Assignment 1: Paula Phelan
WHAT IS SOCIAL NETWORKING Source: www.flick’r.com
Discussion Questions 1. Does the educational value of social networking sites outweigh the disadvantages. 2. To what extent are parents responsible for the behaviour of their children online? 3. What role does the school have in teaching the importance of online privacy and safety? 4. Are gaming sites dangerous for children?
References Club Penguin retrieved from www.wikipedia.com Davidson, L All about Kids Website Club Penguin, retrieved from www. hub pages.com./hub/All_ About_Kids_Website Henderson M, DeZwart, M.,Lindsay,D & Phillips M (2010) Legal Risks for students using social networking sites in Australian Educational Computing, v25 n1 p3-7 Jul 2010. (EJ898065) Kite, Stacey L. , Gable, Robert and Filippelli, Lawrence(2010) 'Assessing Middle School Students‘ Knowledge of Conduct and Consequences and Their Behaviors Regarding the Use of Social Networking Sites', The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 83: 5, 158 — 163 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00098650903505365 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00098650903505365 “Social Networking Safety Tips” Safety Web July 1 2010 as retrieved from http://www.safetyweb.com/social-networking-safety-tips ‘Educational benefits of social networking sites uncovered’ Science Daily 21/6/08 as Retrieved from http://www.safetyweb.com/social-networking-safety-tips
Miller, Robert , Parsons, Kristine and Lifer, David(2010) 'Students and social networking sites: the posting paradox', Behaviour & Information Technology, 29: 4, 377 — 382, First published on: 12 June 2009 (First) Retrieved on 27 April 2011 from http://www. Informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713736316 Feldman B.J. ‘Internet safety: what is Kidswirl’ as retrieved from http//:www.surfnetkids.com/go/safety/613/What is Kidswirl http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webkinz