#28daysofwriting Day 9: Safer Internet Day

Missed yesterday so playing catch up today.  Spent yesterday evening frantically putting PD together for a Digital Citizenship session with teachers tomorrow and putting the finishing touches to our new Staff Responsible Use agreement.  Since today is Safer Internet Day, I had a look around at some resources to share with staff and as I was browsing came across some interesting statistics that got me thinking.

According to a report in the UK  about online behaviour, a third of young people say they are targeted with “mean” behaviour online.  Based on interviews with more than 1,000 young people by the UK Safer Internet Centre the report also says that young people feel closer to their friends, and feel more able to cope with unpleasant online behaviour that they may encounter.

Interestingly the report suggests that “26% of British 11-16 year-olds use six or more social networks and messaging apps every week.”  As you might imagine YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used.

My own surveys in class over the last couple of weeks with our Year 9 students back up the report’s findings that Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp follow quickly on the heels of FB.  Then the findings start to veer apart.  The UK statistics that Minecraft and Twitter are used by just over a third of young people are not reflected in my findings but maybe that is, in part, because my students are all girls and are not interested, on the whole, in Minecraft.  And there seems to be a fear, maybe borne of ignorance, of Twitter being a dangerous medium that should be avoided at all costs!

Most young people say that technology is an important part of their lives and it certainly seems that avenues for reporting abuse and inappropriate behaviour on social media have improved and become more transparent.  It is important not to overstate the negatives and focus more on the positives, we need to engage in media which enable interaction, collaboration and learning.  We also need to help our young people deal with difficulties and cope with the challenges they pose if they are to be prepared for life in general.

This blog poses some interesting challenges for the millenials that are in front of us in our classrooms.  Diana Shafer suggests that cyber crime is only going to increase as the opportunists take advantage of the spaces created by technology.  However, the environment also offers huge opportunities for our young people to bridge the gap between the next generation and their parents in terms of cyber security and being responsible users of the internet.  The jobs out there for our kids will be in the field of technology.  “The cybersecurity field is facing a global shortage of qualified IT security professionals. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, according to the 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report (CASR), and job postings are up 74 percent over the past five years. It’s up to us to spread the word about the importance of cybersecurity and the steps our generation can take to get into the field.”

We have a responsibility as educators to ensure that, even if we cannot understand the true complexities of technology and the dangers and opportunities it offers, we know how to keep ourselves safe online.  We also need to support the young people in our care to make safe choices but to not be afraid of the future it opens up for them.