Blog post from Lisa Williams - St Margaret's College, Christchurch
What can we do to keep our students safer on the internet?
Students listening to teachers (and therefore adults) about what they should and shouldn't do on the internet regularly goes in one ear and out the other so we need to become innovative with our approaches. When discussing these issues with my Year 10 Rite Journey class (all girls), we came up with a plan. This plan turned into an exceptionally powerful project.
So this is how it went....
We created a fake Facebook page for a 14 year old 'very attractive' boy. A lot of thought went into the back story and photos by the class, and strict rules were put into place about what the girls were allowed to do on this page. Our goal was to see how many Facebook friends we could get in 4 weeks. Obviously for this to be effective, the class had to keep this a secret! A very tall ask for teenage girls but they took this responsibility very seriously. The project was never leaked out. Each day we would discuss what was happening, and it opened up so many different discussions and their own eyes about what others say and do on their facebook page.
The last post on the facebook page created:
This is a fake page. Sam Cooper was set up by a Year 10 class as a project!
After 3 days this non existent person had 110 friends
After 7 days = 250
After 14 days = 350
After 21 days = 390
After 28 days = 560+
We received private messages from over 100 of you, with all sorts of information.
We received 20+ phone numbers.
This person could have been anyone - it is not safe to accept friend requests from people you don't ACTUALLY know.
Go through your facebook friends and delete anyone you don't know!
Yes I know we pushed all the boundaries here but I think this is our only chance, we need to be far more innovative in our approach. Most students thought it was a great assembly and they have got the message and a big fright in the process. A few thought it was very deceitful, hopefully the penny will drop with those students one day very soon.
I'm not sure why but it never ceases to amaze me how naive Middle School students are when it comes to keeping themselves safe on the internet. In a variety of ways we attempt to educate our students about privacy settings, what to share and more importantly what not to share on the magnitude of apps our students use. As a fully digital school, we do have a huge responsibility to keep our students safe.
So what did we actually discover and what happened during our 4 week period:
After 3 days - we had 110 friends and private messages from 21 people
After 7 days - 250 friends and messages from 38 people
After 14 days - 350 friends and messages from 48 people
After 21 days - 390 friends and messages from 73 people
After 28 days - 560 friends and messages from 100 people and we also received 20 cell phone numbers
After 4 weeks we called an assembly for our Middle School. A slide of Sam's facebook cover was shown and they were asked who knew this boy. I indicated that we were really lucky to have Sam with us today to share a story and could Sam please stand up. My entire class stood up.
The silence was deafening. The joy of seeing students squirming in their seats was priceless. What followed was an exceptionally powerful message that maybe, just maybe had an impact.
We discussed the fact that Sam could have been anyone, wanting photos and other information. I did push the boundaries by showing photos from the girls' pages. I made no apologies for this as they had in fact given access to anything on their pages by becoming friends with this non existent person. It clearly made the point that, although these photos were completely innocent in the right hands, they were certainly not if in the wrong hands.
Our main messages included not accepting friend requests from people you don't 'actually know yourself', ensuring your privacy settings are correct and only posting information that you would be happy for your grandparents to see. Of course we have given this information many times before, but suddenly this time it actually meant something.
There was a lot of discussion after the assembly by both students and staff. An email home to all parents explaining what we had done has also allowed them to open up discussions at home. A lot of girls do seem to have gone away and deleted many 'friends' or at least people they don't know off their pages. Poor Sam Cooper lost 100 friends overnight!