Saturday, March 14, 2009

Attack of the Body Snatchers

This week at my friend's school: a girl Googles her friend's name and finds a blog, apparently written by the friend, which discusses all sorts of personal issues that really ought not to be on-line for all to read.  When the friend is shown the site by the principal she claims that she is not the author; that someone created the blog and is impersonating her.  After a request from the school the site content is quickly removed by the blog host.

I see two scenarios here, both disturbing.

A)  Someone is impersonating the girl.  This would be very easy to do, though a bit time consuming.  What if someone was impersonating you by creating 'your' blog?  What damaging content could they post?  How could you prove that you were not the author of the blog?  Would it even be possible to determine who was the real author?  All I can say is I'm going to keep that Google Alert for my name; though I should figure out how to filter it so that I don't keep getting hits for Claire Thompson the S and M novelist.

B)  No one is impersonating the girl.  She just showed a real lack of knowledge thinking that she could treat her blog, with her name on it, like a personal diary; full of intimate details that only she could read.  This is a dangerous lack of knowledge.  We have to do a better job of educating our kids about the internet.  In my day teens could make mistakes, sometimes pretty big ones, but they didn't do it on-line, for the whole world to see, forever...    

Each day more and more kids have easy unfettered access to the internet via cell phones, the iPod touch, and whatever those new gameboy thingy's are called.  No longer can we rely on just keeping the family computer in the kitchen (though that's still a good idea) or on having programs like Net Nanny or Agent Bob (a program my husband developed) on the aforementioned family computer. We've got to give the kids the skills to make good decisions on-line.

Vendo iPod touch 16 GB by juanpol

Are you aware of these sorts of issues occuring with your students?  Does your school address digital citizenship/literacy in an adequate way or is it just a piecemeal process?
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  1. I think every school deals with these issues to some degree. Some deal with it by fear mongering. Some deal with it by cutting off access to 99% of the web in the name of safety. The most logical response is to teach: respect, decency, and digital citizenship. We are creating a series of homerooms assemblies for next year to address the topic.

  2. Hi Charlie, I agree that fear mongering and cutting off access are not the solutions. Addressing it at homeroom assemblies sounds like a good idea. I'd be interested to hear how it goes next year.

    My worry is that kids learn about digital literacy and citizenship only if they are lucky enough to have a teacher who feels it is important to teach. I wonder if the sex ed. approach taken by many schools would be effective; have an expert visit every class and do 5 class sessions with age appropriate material.

  3. Hi Claire,
    Two days before Spring Break, I introduced my students to the art class blog, complete with 30 student blogs. They were so excited!

    I was terrified. What was I thinking creating their own websites for them and sending them off for over a week? I controlled my panic by reminding myself that I did the pre-teaching about digital identity and internet safety.

    I like your sex ed. approach idea. I don't think we can stress the importance of those issues strongly enough. At my school, all grade eights have a two week info literacy unit with me as part of the grade eight electives rotation. That works well, too.

  4. Hi Errin,
    I suspect you've checked in on those student blogs over the break though, eh?! The 2 week info literacy unit the grade 8s do with you sounds like a good way to approach things. I guess the main thing is that schools have a plan and don't just cross their fingers and hope for the best.

  5. Yes, I've definitely checked! I created RSS feeds in my Google Reader account to check for posts and I used the gmail hack so that I receive an email notification every time there is a comment! Being proactive and prepared reduced the worry considerably!

  6. I think this is a very important topic to talk about. As a student, i need to learn this things. I hope to read more comments from teachers and parents here. Thanks!

  7. Claire ThompsonMay 1, 2009 at 4:57 AM

    @Norize, definitely students should be hearing about these issues and being told how to protect themselves. Hopefully as more students and teachers become aware of these issues we'll see them better covered in classes.


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