When your digital footprint follows you into the world of work

Paris Brown is the 17 year old working with Kent Police on youth liaison as Britain's first young police and crime commissioner. The Mail on Sunday looked through her Twitter account, going back three years, and found some offensive comments. Teenagers can be susceptible to tweeting or posting things online that they may later regret. Paris Brown had tweeted about her local pizza delivery firm, saying they needed to learn to speak English. She had used the word "fags" talking about people on television, referred to "pikeys", said she fancied making hash brownies and expressed a desire to want to "cut everyone around me". Whether this makes her unfit for her new job is a subject for debate in itself, but the case certainly goes to show that it pays to consider your digital footprint when you post comments online.

Officials hadn't checked Paris' social media profile prior to her appointment, but there are probably many 17-year-olds who have social media profiles that are not 100% blemish free. Paris has tearfully said that she "doesn't want to be judged on Tweets that were written a long time ago. They are stupid tweets but they should not affect my future career." But, like it or not, these things are likely to come back to haunt you.

The case illustrates the huge implications of social media and the tendency for it to be used to publish throwaway comments to a large and unknown audience. For young people, the temptation to use it to to vent, show off, try to attract attention or be funny is almost impossible to resist. That is why it is more crucial than ever that from an early age children are given the skills to navigate these uncharted waters, and to make sensible decisions about how to use social media via e-safety education.

Lesson idea

The Paris Brown case provides an excellent opportunity to discuss digital footprints with students. Ask them to read about the case online, then explore the following questions:

  • How many of them have written something online that could be offensive?

  • Do they think that Paris Brown is guilty of being racist and homophobic?

  • Why would someone write something like the comments Paris tweeted?

  • What tips would they give to other students as ways of preventing situations like this?

  • Which websites are most likely to cause the most damage when you post comments online?

  • How easy is it to remove or delete comments that you have tweeted, or posted online?

  • What are the key lessons that we can learn from Paris Brown's situation?

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on April 08, 2013 14:50

How to use Avatars with children

One of the benefits of working and communicating online is the ability to share information with others, but children (and adults) need to be careful about what they share and with whom. Some sites that they use, even child-friendly sites like Edmodo, will give children the chance to add a photo or picture of themselves to make their profile more personal. Now we don’t really want children uploading photos of themselves with their name displayed as well so it is useful to find an alternative solution and that is where the avatar creation tools come in.

An avatar is a graphical representation of the user and this can take many forms. There are sites that pop-up all of the time offering simple avatar creation and I have looked at a few below. Children will probably be aware of these tools already and will have found a variety of different sites already, so ask them for examples and ideas. They will probably be familiar with the idea if they have ever played on the Wii as they are asked to create a ‘Mii’ character to join the games.

Avatar Generator Tool
The first place to start is the Primary Technology Avatar tool which is simply a page that links a number of avatar tools together in one place. Both of the examples below are on this page as well as around ten others too.

Clay Yourself
This is an example of a simple tool to use. You simply work through the options choosing skin colour, hair type and clothes and then press finish to see your finished work. This can then be downloaded or saved to use elsewhere. An example is here:

Build Your Wild-self
This tool takes it a little bit further and lets you choose not only hair and eyes, but also wings, a tail and a whole host of other creepy features. Wild-self is an example of a tool that makes it a little harder to download your finished creation and to save it; there are a couple of steps. Firstly, once you are finished you will need to choose the Print option. There isn’t a download option but the right-clicking on the image will allow you to save it. From here, you may need to crop it to get the parts that you need.

There are many other tools out there but they all work in a very similar way.

One way of using these in the classroom is to explore a variety, maybe 5 different sites, and get the children to download their images to their computer. They can then create a gallery or composite photo of their different avatars. This will help to re-enforce many skills such as saving work and cropping and editing images.

Although this blog is aimed at the e-safety aspect, the avatars can be used in other ways too. Why not create some characters to use in a story or design a creature using Wild-Self and describe its diet or habitat?

These tools are usually free and take seconds to use. So give it a go, create some avatars!

Written by Ian Addison on March 25, 2013 14:58

Using social media to talk to parents and pupils

Social media sites are a great way to communicate with teachers, parents and pupils. Following some basic rules will make sure you are using them appropriately and getting the most out of them.

1. Set up official school social media accounts

To make the most of social media, schools need to set up official accounts; either in the name of the school, or in the name of staff, but always transparently associated with the school – defining and delimiting the usage as professional and entirely school related. That way there’s no difference between a school attributed social media account and a school email, telephone or letterhead.

2. Communicate appropriately

Using a communication platform which is popular with the pupils is not the same as using the communication platform in the same way as the pupils. Boundaries and professional practice need to be considered at all times. For example, in real life a school might display posters for a school event on an official youth centre noticeboard, but a teacher wouldn’t go up to the children at the skate-park to tell them in person. Twitter and Facebook are no different.

From What every teacher needs to know about social media – join to download the full 6-page report for free.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on March 26, 2013 16:01

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