The pros and cons of Facebook - a student view

Smart phone - FreeDigitalPhotos.netAs a student, I use Facebook almost every day. Most of the time this is purely out of boredom, however it does have its uses. After moving away from family and friends to go to university, I have found Facebook to be one of the easiest and most efficient ways to keep in contact with them and updated with what’s going on in their lives. Another great use of Facebook is the pages created for students which informs its ‘likers’ of current discounts and offers available, studentbeans.com, for example. Even my university has a Facebook page which updates its students with current events and important news related to the uni. In order to help one another when struggling or confused about an assignment, a fellow peer created a Facebook group for our English year. Although I often use Facebook to procrastinate, this Facebook group has helped me when I’ve been confused about referencing or uncertain about what to do for my assignment. If needed, I can simply post a comment on the group wall and, more often than not, three or four people will reply with the answer.

Unfortunately, there are many downsides to Facebook. As I previously mentioned, it’s an excellent place to procrastinate. Filled with hundreds of distractions, funny ‘Vine’ videos and addictive games like ‘Candy Crush,’ it’s easy to lose an hour or so without even noticing. Then there’s the ridiculous amount of pointless pictures people upload to Facebook which have been synced with their Instagram accounts. Pictures of food, pets and selfies with pouts; it’s all useless to me. I can appreciate the picture of your pet, and you look lovely in your selfie but did I really need to know what you had for lunch? I don’t have an Instagram account so maybe I don’t quite understand the hype. My friend once uploaded a picture of socks to Instagram purely to see how many likes it would get. It got around 10 likes within an hour of being uploaded. 10 likes for a picture of socks! Or maybe that’s really creative and I just don’t have the artistic eye to see this?

During high school I found that if there was an argument or fall out between peers at school this would then carry on to Facebook. There would be statuses set, one peer would edit a photo of the peer they had fallen out with and re-post this on Facebook or maybe set it as their profile picture. I never witnessed what I would call cyber bullying on Facebook. However, when websites such as Formspring became popular, due to the anonymity button on the site, one pupil decided to pretend to be another and sent argumentative messages to another pupil. This therefore created a lot of upset, particularly for the pupil who was being impersonated. Thankfully, this happened towards the end of Year 11 so the impersonated pupil managed to escape away from the situation to college before it got any worse.

High school was four years ago now and although I rarely see an argument on Facebook today, I still see people setting statuses about others without revealing the person’s identity. I understand some people see Facebook as somewhere to vent their feelings but surely it’s going too far when you’re writing a status aimed at another for all to see? In my opinion, Facebook statuses should be used to share jokes, something funny that happened to you, an amusing video, to share your interests or a provoking article. I don’t think it should be used to pull others down, beg for attention or update your friends with every moment of your day.

It is unfortunate that people abuse the site by using it to hurt others. Facebook was originally created to give people somewhere to socialise with others and share their interests but it has evolved into so much more. It is used for advertising and promoting products and companies. It has helped me find long, lost friends, to keep in touch with friends who have moved away, and broadened my knowledge of the world and the people in it through pages such as Upworthy and Humans of New York. Despite the endless amounts of rubbish found on it there’s a great amount of interesting and wonderful things, too.

At E-safety Support we would like to thank Rebecca for sharing her thoughts on this topic. If you would like to share your opinion about this or other e-safety topics, please use the comment section below or email tinae@e-safetysupport.com

Written by Rebecca Hope on February 06, 2014 13:15

A school e-safety policy is so much more than a set of rules

In the months since the inclusion of e-safety as part of the Ofsted inspection criteria, many schools are beginning to come to terms with the e-safety inspection criteria which includes; having a whole school consistent approach, developing robust and integrated reporting routines, having staff training and responsibilities identified, delivering age appropriate education, having the correct infrastructure, monitoring and evaluation, management of personal data and last but certainly not least, a school e-safety policy.

In the most recent Ofsted ‘Inspecting e-safety in schools’ briefing, they identify key features of good or outstanding practice for e-safety policies as:

  • Rigorous e-safety policies and procedures are in place, written in plain English, contributed to by the whole school, updated regularly and ratified by governors.

  • The e-safety policy should be integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.

  • The e-safety policy should incorporate an Acceptable Usage Policy that is understood and respected by pupils, staff and parents.
  • Significantly, there is only one indicator of inadequate practice:

  • Policies are generic and not updated.
  • It is easy to see why schools could fall into the latter category, not least because the e-safety inspection is a relatively new addition to the Ofsted inspection and may not yet be fully integrated with the other school procedures and policies. Downloading a 'one size fits all' policy template from the internet is a quick fix, but isn’t ideal and indeed, not a satisfactory solution where Ofsted in concerned.

    If e-safety issues are global and the associated risks applicable to all young people, why is an off-the-shelf policy inadequate. The answer to this lies with the whole school community involvement. If a policy were aimed at just students in a single year group, then it’s possible that a generic policy could well stand up to interrogation. However, add several more year groups, plus their parents and not forgetting their teachers, governors – the entire school community – and the parameters for the policy become vastly different.

    Each school will have a different relationship with its stakeholders – some school may have a locked down IT systems which prevent certain websites within the school, however once outside the school environment, pupils could have unrestricted access. This situation would require a different policy for pupils and parents to those which allow unrestricted (but monitored) access to the internet.

    Alternatively, a school may have a defined code of practice about personal social media accounts for teachers, while others may have accounts set up specifically for school use – again in each case, a different policy would be required.

    One area which all schools should have in common is the involvement of the students in the creation and implementation of the school e-safety policy – how this is applied however is again down to the individual school.

    These highlight just some of the areas where a policy would benefit from being unique to the school – let’s not forget, that there are several more areas from the Ofsted indicators that could also be interpreted differently. With all the possible variables, it becomes clearer why each school requires its own policy, even to the extent that schools sharing the same site could very well require different policies despite their shared location.

    On a final note, there is also the issue of a policy being ‘updated’. While the digital landscape is constantly changing and schools are become more e-safety aware, the school policy will need to be adjusted appropriately. There are no hard and fast rules about how frequently this will need to happen, but Ofsted suggest that a good policy should be updated regularly.

    If you would like to share your experience about implementing an e-safety policy in your school, we would love to hear from you – simply complete the comment section below.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on October 31, 2013 17:42

    Digital literacy

    In recent years, it would seem that every educational web site you visit refers to, if only in passing, the term 'digital literacy', but what does it actually mean and why has it become so imperative that we all, especially professional educators, become digitally literate to enable us to live and work effectively in the early 21st century?

    One definition of digital literacy is “the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology.” It refers to a person's understanding and ability to make an informed decision on which digital tool to use for a specific everyday task and their respective skill in using that tool to produce a successful outcome.

    In the mid 19th century, it was realised how important it was that children should be able to read and write in order to raise their intellect, employability and hence their potential personal economic well-being. In later years, this allowed the development of a national workforce that had the ability to become highly trained and skilled in their respective fields. This resulted in the UK becoming a dominant commercial and industrial force in the world and consequentially improved the nation's wealth.

    Late in the 20th century, a new literacy began to command our attention; a literacy that could not be ignored by anyone who wanted to embrace new opportunities - digital literacy.

    As technology advances at an unrelenting pace and impacts every aspect of our working life and leisure time, the expectations we place on each other with regard to our individual abilities to interact with technology - our own digital literacy, continues to rise and this also applies to our personal abilities to understand and rapidly learn how to use any new piece of software or hardware. It's intriguing that the common perception of young people feeling exasperated by, what they see as, the general low digital literacy of older generations maybe true with regard to a certain functionality of say, a mobile phone or the intricacies of getting to the next level on a specific game; however, as any ICT teacher will tell you, their apparent vast digital knowledge vapourises when they need to construct a spreadsheet or design a database. It is only because, as children or adolescents, they are able to spend a great deal of time playing games or searching every nook and cranny of their respective phone's operating system, that they acquire so much knowledge, whereas adults have to deal with the mundanity of careers and home life and therefore don't have the time.

    As adults, and especially as education professionals, we must not only have extensive (and constantly improving) technological knowledge and skills, but also possess a broader digital literacy as a consequence of the perpetually developing digital abilities of students. Ten years ago it would have been unheard of for a teacher, or senior member of staff, to have to deal with a 'cyber-bullying' incident or, due to the phenomena of 'collecting friends' on a global scale through social-networking sites, having to be vigilant of the possibility of children unknowingly falling victim to a 'troll' or an online predatory paedophile. In this day and age, however, the digital literacies of school staff not only have to include how to source information on the web or present text in an infographic, but are also required to have knowledge and an awareness of the wider social (and sometimes darker) aspects of technology.

    Nowadays, we place much greater expectations on the quality and professionalism of products, documents and files that we use and receive - how surprised would you be if you received a hand written letter from your bank, even if it contained reasonably good hand writing? There is also a great deal of emphasis on the originality of documents. Historically, teachers relied on their own judgement and intuition to spot if students had colluded on a piece of homework; however, in 2013, the digital literacies of teachers should encompass the capability to use plagiarism software to check the authenticity of students work to ensure that they have not just lifted material from the web.

    For more information about digital literacy, download your free 'What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Digital Literacy' report from E-safety Support

    Written by Steve Gresty on September 04, 2013 10:21


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