Yesterday was the 10th international Safer Internet Day, the day to create awareness about online safety issues - there are lots of great resources being publicized for anyone who uses the internet. Of course there are plenty of basic resources available to protect internet users and students of all ages - including parental filters and controls, not only for the internet, mobile devices and on-demand TV including i Player, but it is essential to remember the basic and most important point - these resources work in addition to, not instead of, informed guidance - talking to students of all ages about their use of the internet, after all, much of the danger online is caused due to over-sharing online or cyber bullying.
A few obvious and general useful points I was reminded of just today include;
• It is not only our own privacy settings that we need to be concerned with on sites such as Facebook, it is the privacy settings of our friends - those who may share our data or tag us in photos
• The importance of deleting old accounts - don't allow your personal information to remain available unnecessarily. If you have stopped using a site or forum, close the account and perhaps consider deleting what you have said
• Be sure to enable and update anti-virus software regularly (I am certainly guilty of putting off updating software as it always seems like such a drag)
• Have you ever used your mother's maiden name on a site as a password? Is it really necessary to share that someone is a family member on Facebook? You could be giving away too many pieces of personal information
• If someone really is your friend, don't they know your birthday already? Surely your date of birth is an unnecessary detail on Facebook? Birth dates can be used to enable identify theft or as passwords. Guard yours carefully
• Be sure to password protect all internet enabled devices, to ensure a lost phone or tablet does not allow anyone to easily access your social media or contact list
The internet offers new and engaging ways of collaborating and communicating for learning, and institutions have a legal and statutory duty to safeguard the welfare of students making use of ICT. The risks need to be managed proactively. JISC (the organization that offers UK leadership and support around the use of digital technology in education) has published some really useful resources for teachers and higher education institutions including an e-Safety policy template and informative videos. If your university, school or college doesn't have a policy on e-Safety, cyber bullying or an obvious, dedicated "go to" person or department for help and advice, perhaps this is just the day to ask why.
With such a profusion of platforms and functionality available that could possibly enhance teaching and learning - such as Pinterest, it is vitally important for teachers and learners be clear about the key legal considerations, UK rules around copyright ownership and licensing, before engaging for the sake of appearing current - it could lead to a large bill or worse.