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Safer Internet Day

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Simon Grehan - Safer Internet Day - tips for parents and children

Safer Internet Day focuses on risks, experiences and precautions taken in using social networking sites by young people. It takes place this year on Tuesday, 9th February.

Simon Grehan of the NCTE is an experienced spokesperson on internet safety issues for children

The Department of Education and Science and the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) is driving Irish participation in "Safer Internet Day" (it is a European sponsored initiative).

This is the seventh year it will be celebrated in Ireland and it focuses on risks, experiences and precautions taken in using social networking sites by young people. It takes place this year on Tuesday, 9th February.

Theme - "Think before you post" - it's all about privacy, what kind of personal info is right to share. They are talking to both parents and children, as well as adults generally.

What is Social networking - they are personal websites where kids upload pictures of themselves and connect with others. It is mainly a communication tool, a free alternative to texting (to the kids, the parents pay!). They can organise their social lives and events. Bebo is still the most popular (teens) in Ireland, then Facebook (teens - all ages). 4 Squared is like Twitter, but it takes another level of information - geographical - check in where you are - checking in. The Google Latitude automatically updates your location - a layer over a google map. Your friends can see where you are.

Risks: There are massive child protection risks to this - cyber bullying pales into insignificance in comparison to this. Most children have up to 200 online friends - some have quite tenuous connection, can be an unreliable friend or a bully. The fear is unknown stalkers, but the reality is more likely to be the threat of an abuser (a school bully) who could use this info.

So "Think before you post!" - a regulatory framework for social networking sites. The responsibility is on the private individual to manage their own info best, what audience can see it, what info your friends/family/distant friends can see. The nature of the internet is that everything can be copied and used again. There is no such thing as private. Your teacher, employer, or the guy down the road can see it. Celebrities also manage their reputation.

When Bebo went mobile, there was a bug in the system that spammers got into the system but they hut that down. Now it's pages of porn profiles that get sent by companies, escorts, like spam comments. They managed to shut that down largely thanks to O2 in Ireland. They have new ways of doing it now. They get shut down as soon as soon as they are reported. Ads on those sites get a micropayment. The kids are v active in policing it themselves. Bebo were cancelling the accounts of the people/companies/children who were posting these profiles. Ulay

What should parents look out for?
They should have this conversation with their children. More of a parenting monitoring solution - use your normal parenting skills, make the children aware of the risks. Technical skills are of lesser importance.

The parent can decide to block access to Facebook or not.
The Net Nannies have a purpose will stop young children from coming across violent, porn content. Youtube can be blocked but not just violent videos on Youtube. They filter the www addresses not the content. There is no real technological solution.

Don't ban them from using their phones that they just won't confide in you the next time.

Don't be afraid or hysterical. The fear of social networking massively over-stated. It's rare that there is a major problem.

Can the sites use your photos in their promotional material?

It's a grey area; do you accept their terms and conditions?

You have to give them copywrite and most people do, unless. it's a hot topic in journalism, they use pix from Facebook etc. The BBC has just issued guidelines on using pix from networking sites. You can't sue in theory but not in practice. A girl on Bebo from Malahide her photo was used by - still online, they won't remove her pic. They got it from her Bebo site.

For you to have your profile on Facebook, Bebo you sign over your info/picture content rights, especially in dating you sign over your rights to content. They can't use it for promotional material but he has not seen being used

Can they play tricks on people to use their info / pictures?

They changed how their privacy settings operate. In shorthand, only your chosen friends can see it or everyone. Now can be some friends, or all beyond friends, can see it. It's a response to twitter, less distinguishing. Slightly more open, but it is possible to keep it private. It's more nuanced. If someone tags you, it can be opened to another audience. No one fully understands how it works. They're not doing this to fool people. It's up to people to inform themselves. Mark Zuckerberg said "there is not such thing as privacy anymore. The advantages to being out there are great, the disadvantages are few" Simon would agree with him.

Additional Information
Simon Grehan
National Centre for Technology in Education NCTE -
t: 00353-1- 7008927