B4: Social Networks and Social Media
Q14: Should schools be present in online social networks and social media?
The membership of a social network in schools, such as eTwinning for example, can be a valuable resource from professional development to finding real-life examples in a foreign language class. However schools using other online social networks and social media such as Twitter, is a hot topic; arguments, both for and against, ranging from the positive promotion active tweeting could bring from a marketing perspective to the risk of cyber-bullying and questioning teacher-student online friendships. The main point to keep in mind about the use of social media and social networks in schools, is the issue of online rights and responsibilities. Apart from being a promotional tool for schools, a variety of benefits come along concerning social network use in schools:
1. Professional development in terms of technical and social media tools for the teachers.
2. Use of modern, inclusive and alternative learning methods.
3. Community outreach and outreach to parents using Facebook groups, Pinterest, Yammer, Twitter and others.
4. Foster communication to parents if they are Facebook friends of the school/ class/ school project.
5. Cross-cultural communication to other schools.
6. Language learning.
7. Collaborative learning and sharing with peers and like-minded learning groups.
8. Networking with colleagues across the country and even the world.
9. Integrating real-world examples into teaching.
Q15: How old do you need to be to open a Facebook / Twitter / Snapchat account?
'Why can't I go on Facebook?' - The question many teachers will face at some point, that's if you haven't already. With the huge number of social media sites available it can be difficult keeping track of what your pupils can use and when. Recent figures show that 78 per cent of children under the age of 13 have at least one social media account, which is the minimum age restrictions for most social media sites. Even with age restrictions in place, many children push their parents to open accounts before they are old enough.
To learn more about the different privacy and safety features of today's most popular applications, used by children and young people (and adults), click here.
Q16: How should I behave when communicating with other people online?
All online communities have their own codes of behaviour, sometimes called community guidelines. In eTwinning for example there is a Code of Conduct for all registered users. It is very important that members know and follow the netiquette to create a good working climate and ensure everyone feels safe. In most cases, they are just common-sense rules, good manners and other good practices normally observed in any social interaction. However, it is important to take into account that we are communicating online and we miss very important pieces of information, like tone of voice, gestures, etc. Therefore, it is very easy to misunderstand what others say or take words out of context.
1. eTwinning has its own netiquette rules, have a look at the eTwinning Portal. Available here.
2. Take a look at the guidelines and rules of behaviour implemented in some of the most popular online communities nowadays:
3. Also have a look at the research from Kent County Council.
4. In addition, have a look at the Better Internet for Kids guide to online services, which aims to provide key information about some of the most popular apps, social networking sites and other platforms which are commonly being used by children and young people (and adults) today.
B5: The challenges of online communication outside eTwinning
When people use online communication tools they are often unaware of the affect their behaviour can have on others, what starts as a joke can easily escalate into a more serious incident of cyberbullying for example. Young people also need to be aware that in online situations, people are not always who they pretend to be (except in a community like eTwinning where all users are validated) and these same young people must be assisted to develop an inherent sense of self protection in online situation.
Q17: What should teachers do if their pupils are being bullied online?
Here are some useful tips you can use with your pupils:
Know that it is not your fault. What people call “bullying” is sometimes an argument between two people. But if someone is repeatedly cruel to you, that’s bullying and you mustn’t blame yourself. No one deserves to be treated cruelly.
Do not respond or retaliate. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for because they think it gives them power over you, and you do not want to empower a bully. As for retaliating, getting back at a bully turns you into one – and can turn one mean act into a chain reaction. If you can, remove yourself from the situation. If you cannot, sometimes humour disarms or distracts a person from bullying.
Save the evidence. The only good news about bullying online or on phones is that it can usually be captured, saved, and shown to someone who can help. You can save that evidence in case things escalate.
Tell the person to stop. This is completely up to you – do not do it if you do not feel totally comfortable doing it, because you need to make your position completely clear that you will not stand for this treatment any more. You may need to practice beforehand with someone you trust, like a parent or good friend.
Reach out for help – especially if the behaviour is really getting to you. You deserve backup. See if there is someone who can listen, help you process what is going on and work through it – a friend, relative or maybe an adult you trust.
Use available tech tools. Most social media apps and services allow you to block the person. Whether the harassment is in an app, texting, comments or tagged photos, do yourself a favour and block the person. You can also report the problem to the service. Hopefully this will end the problem and the best course of action in this situation is not to respond.
If you are getting threats of physical harm, you should call your local police (with a parent or guardian’s help) and consider reporting it to school authorities.
Protect your accounts. Do not share your passwords with anyone – even your closest friends, who may not be close forever – and password-protect your phone so no one can use it to impersonate you.
If someone you know is being bullied, take action. Just standing by can empower an aggressor and does nothing to help. The best thing you can do is try to stop the bullying by taking a stand against it. If you cannot stop it, support the person being bullied. If the person is a friend, you can listen and see how to help. Consider together whether you should report the bullying. If you are not already friends, even a kind word can help reduce the pain. At the very least, help by not passing along a mean message and not giving positive attention to the person doing the bullying.
Additional advice to be shared with teacher colleagues
Know that you are lucky if your pupil asks for help. Most young people do not tell their parents or teachers about bullying online or offline. So if your child/pupil is losing sleep or doesn’t want to go to school or seems agitated when on his or her computer or phone, ask why as calmly and open-heartedly as possible. Feel free to ask if it has anything to do with mean behaviour or social issues. But even if it does, don’t assume it’s bullying. You will not know until you get the full story, starting with your child’s perspective.
Work with your pupil. There are two reasons why you will want to keep your pupil involved. Bullying and cyberbullying usually involve a loss of dignity or control over a social situation, and involving your child in finding solutions helps him or her regain that. The second reason is about context. Because the bullying is almost always related to school life and our kids understand the situation and context better than adults ever can, their perspective is key to getting to the bottom of the situation and working out a solution. You may need to have private conversations with others, but let your child know if you do, and report back. This is about your child’s life, so your child needs to be part of the solution.
Respond thoughtfully, not fast. What adults do not always know is that they can make things worse for their child/pupil if they act rashly. A lot of cyberbullying involves somebody getting marginalized (put down and excluded), which the bully thinks increases his or her power or status. If you respond publicly or if your child/pupil’s peers find out about even a discreet meeting with school authorities, the marginalisation can get worse, which is why any response needs to be well thought out.
More than one perspective needed. Your child/pupil’s account of what happened is likely completely sincere, but remember that one person’s truth is not necessarily everybody’s. You will need to get other perspectives and be open-minded about what they are. Sometimes kids let themselves get pulled into chain reactions, and often what we see online is only one side of or part of the story.
What victims say helps most is to be heard – really listened to – either by a friend or an adult who cares. That is why, if your kids come to you for help, it’s so important to respond thoughtfully and involve them. Just by being heard respectfully, a child is often well on the way to healing.
The ultimate goal is restored self-respect and greater resilience in your child/pupil. This, not getting someone punished, is the best focus for resolving the problem and helping your child/pupil heal. What your child/pupil needs most is to regain a sense of dignity. Sometimes that means standing up to the bully, sometimes not. Together, you and your child/pupil can figure out how to get there.
One positive outcome we do not often think about (or hear in the news) is resilience. We know the human race will never completely eradicate meanness or cruelty, and we also know that bullying is not, as heard in past generations, “normal” or a rite of passage. We need to keep working to eradicate it. But when it does happen and we overcome it – our resilience grows. It is not something that can be “downloaded” or taught. We grow it through exposure to challenges and figuring out how to deal with them. So sometimes, it is important to give them space to do that and let them know we have their back.
For further information, have a look at the tips of Connect Safely, a US based NGO.
Q18: What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying – also called online bullying – is a very complex issue. It can be defined as any behaviour that repeatedly makes someone feel upset, uncomfortable and/or unsafe. This is usually deliberate, and can take forms such as verbal, indirect and physical.
It can be an extension of face-to-face bullying, with the technology offering the bully another route for harassing their victim, or can be simply without motive. It can occur using practically any form of connected media, from nasty text and image messages using mobile phones, to unkind blog and social networking posts, or emails and instant messages, to malicious websites created solely for the purpose of intimidating an individual or virtual abuse during an online multiplayer game. Moreover, (cyber-) bullying can also be done through isolation or exclusion (i.e. someone posts content and no one likes or comments on it).
Cyberbullying differs from other forms of bullying in several ways: it can invade the home and personal space of the victim, the potential size of the audience is much greater, upsetting messages or images can be spread at great speed, and there is difficulty in controlling and/or removing anything posted or circulated electronically. Also, because of its faceless nature, there is often a perceived anonymity to cyberbullying. This can lead to people becoming involved in activities that they wouldn't dream of in the real world, whether as the perpetrator or as a bystander.
Q19: What can I do if I find a case of cyberbullying in my class?
Take a whole-school approach to tackle bullying cyber or otherwise. Clearly communicate the strategy to all members of the school community – pupils, teachers, support staff and parents. Everyone should be aware of the routes for reporting and the consequences for those involved in such behaviour.
Have a look at the resources created by the ENABLE project - the European Network Against Bullying in Learning and Leisure Environments.
Q20: How to respond to inappropriate posts and images?
Sexting seems to be an issue which is constantly in the news. It is defined as the exchange of sexual messages or images, and creating, sharing and forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images through mobile phones and the internet. Research suggests that sexting is becoming commonplace in the lives of teens today. The ubiquitous nature of technology and, in particular, mobile devices means that most young people have a camera and this means that they can take photos whenever they want and, sometimes, mistakes can be made. In most countries, there are legal consequences for sexting and, in most cases, a naked image of someone under the age of 18 is classed as an illegal image or a child sexual abuse image.
Schools need to ensure that they provide opportunities for young people to talk about the challenges that they face online and sexting is clearly one of them.
Actions that should be taken into consideration, include:
Ensuring that sexting and the school’s approach to it is understood by everyone and reflected in the child protection policy.
Providing opportunities in the school for children and young people to be able to talk about and discuss issues such as sexting.
Providing training and updates for staff so that they are aware of the risks and challenges posed by sexting.
Providing information for parents as appropriate, and recognise that they are likely to be shocked if they find out their children are involved in sexting.
In addition, check the guide of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety.
Q21: What should you do to help your students develop good online practices?
As a parent and/or teacher you are probably trained to start forbidding your children from chatting with strangers. Hence, many teachers are concerned with teaching their pupils not to chat with strangers, in particular strangers online. While it is easier to convince younger children not to, teenagers will likely resist a ban on chatting with online strangers from their life. This situation has to be handled with diplomacy, with plenty of opportunity to discuss the issues and inherent dangers without arousing either their curiosity or sense of rebellion in doing something they have been told not to do.
The following mnemonic might be of SMART help, when talking to your children/pupils:
S for “safe”: Be careful what personal information you give out to people you do not know.
M for “meeting”: Take precautions when meeting up with people you have only chatted to online. Tell someone where and when the meeting is due to take place. Stay in public places and do not agree to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
A for “accepting”: Be careful when accepting attachments and information from people you do not know they may contain upsetting messages or viruses.
R for “reliable”: Always check if information is from someone reliable; remember some people may not be who they say they are.
T for “tell”: Always tell a trusted adult if something or someone online is making you worried or upset.
For further information have a look at the SMART Crew guidance and activities, developed by Childnet International.
B6: Safer Internet Day
Q22: What is Safer Internet Day and how can eTwinners participate in it?
Over the years, Safer Internet Day (SID) has become a landmark event in the online safety calendar. Starting as an initiative of the EU SafeBorders project in 2004 and taken up by the Insafe network as one of its earliest actions in 2005, Safer Internet Day has grown beyond its traditional geographic zone and is now celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide, and across all continents. From cyberbullying to social networking, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and chooses a topic reflecting current concerns.
Safer Internet Centres and Committees
Insafe is a European network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs). Every national Centre implements awareness and educational campaigns, runs a helpline, and works closely with youth to ensure an evidence-based, multi-stakeholder approach to creating a better internet.
However, Safer Internet Day is also celebrated outside Europe. In 2009, the concept of Safer Internet Day Committees was introduced, to strengthen the bonds with countries outside the network and invest in a harmonised promotion of the campaign across the world. Around 70 global SID Committees now work closely with the Safer Internet Day Coordination Team, which is based at the heart of the European Union in Brussels. If there is not yet a SID Committee in your country, but you would be interested in forming one, please get in touch.
This website provides a global online community platform where countries and international organisations can showcase events and actions conducted locally, nationally and internationally for Safer Internet Day.
Within these pages you will find a wealth of multilingual resources empowering young people, their teachers and their families to make the best possible use of online technology. It is a space where leaders in the internet safety community can communicate with the public and exchange ideas, knowledge and experience with each other.