Social Networking Safety

onlinesafety.pngOnline Safety has become an increasingly hot topic in the last few years, with much debate about how to protect children online, and also to ensure privacy when using social networking sites.

This section provides an overview of the issues related to online safety and protecting privacy, and includes the following resources and information:
  1. What is Online Safety?
  2. Protecting Your Privacy
  3. Protecting Your Computer
  4. Social Networking Safety Tips
  5. Policies and Guidelines
  6. Find Out More About Social Networking Safely
  7. What's Next?

Activities for this topic

Learners who are completing the Social Networking Course should refer to the Moodle site for more information about the activities provided:

1. What is Online Safety?

Online Safety is an important issue to consider, no matter what type of online sites or resources you are using. Social Networking sites are no different - and ALL users should carefully consider how and what they publish online when engaging in them. Additionally, as the popularity of these sites grows, so do the risks of using them. It is important to consider personal safety and privacy, and also computer security techniques to ensure you are protected against spam, phishing attacks and viruses.

To protect your Online Safety, consider the following issues:
  • Digital Reputation: Whenever you publish content online you are contributing to your digital footprint, and in turn building your digital reputation. Consider your digital reputation every time your publish something on a social networking site.
  • Managing Your Privacy: All internet users should take steps to understand online privacy issues and protect their personal identity and information online. Ensure that you don't share unnecessary personal information on social networking sites.
  • Computer Security: It is important to sure that you use anti-virus software, firewalls and ad-blocking tools to protect your computer. This ensures that you are not at risk from phishing or virus attacks.
  • Inappropriate Content: Violent, sexually explicit and other content that breaches cultural norms and standards does exist online. However there are tools and filters that can be used to avoid this type of content (eg. Google SafeSearch, Safe Image filters on photsharing sites). Strategies for blocking and/or dealing with inappropriate content are an especially important issue to consider when working with children and young people online.

Protect yourself and your students by developing an awareness of the risks that can be associated with online tools, and also by learning how to use privacy and security tools to lower the risks.

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2. Protecting Your Privacy

Although protecting children and young people online has received the bulk of attention in discussions about online safety, privacy issues are something that applies to all internet users, and of course is important to understand when using social networking sites.

Whenever you are creating a profile page or account online you should carefully consider the sites privacy policies and ensure that you are comfortable with the information you are providing and how it will be used. Although these tools can be powerful spaces for connecting with friends and families, sharing creative or professional work and connecting with colleagues, you should ensure that you only give out appropriate information.

Consider the following Do's and Dont's:
  • DO adjust your privacy settings to control the amount and type of information you want to share, so that people you don't know very well can only see certain parts of your profile.
  • DO read the website privacy policy before providing your personal details (including email address) online. This should tell you how they will use the information you provide.
  • DO use strong passwords, particularly for important online accounts and change them regularly.
  • DON'T disclose identity information (drivers licence, Medicare No, birth date, address) through email or online unless you have initiated the contact and you know the other person involved.
  • DON'T give your email address out without needing to. Think about why you are providing it, what the benefit is for you and whether it will mean you are sent emails you don’t want.

Remember that YOU decide what information about yourself to reveal, when, why, and to whom.

Check out the flash game included here, which was developed by Onguard Online to highlight the issue of privacy online. Is your identity safe? You can explore additional online safety games via the Onguard Online website .

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3. Protecting Your Computer

All users should be aware of online security issues and the steps you can take to protect your computer from data theft, phishing and viruses. This also applies when using social networking sites, which are sometimes used by hackers and spammers to spread malicious code or content. To ensure that you are protected from these types of security issues, consider the following Computer Security Tips:
  • Configure and use e-mail filters to block spam.
  • Install and use a firewall, pop-up blocker and spyware detector.
  • Ensure that your virus definitions are up to date and run anti-virus and spyware detectors/cleaners regularly.
  • Learn how to configure your computer to keep all of these solutions working efficiently.

TAFENSW Computers are protected with virus protection software which is regularly updated, as well as firewalls which are used to block malicious sites.

For Computer Security Tips and Resources check out the following websites:

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4. Social Networking Safety Tips

The following is a list of points to consider when using social networking tools - both from a personal perspective, and from the perspective of educators. You could uses these tips to create a set of social networking guidelines for your students, or as discussion starters when exploring these issues in your classroom.

General Tips

Do you understand the Privacy Policy? Read the Privacy Policy of the Social Networking site that you are using. Make sure you understand the ways in wich the site will use your personal information, who it will be shared with and how they will protect it. Ensure that you are happy that your information be used inline with the policy BEFORE you sign up.

Be thoughtful about the information you reveal online. Information like your street address, phone number, and family financial information is private and should stay that way.

Are you sure you want that information to be public? Be very careful about the information you post online, and remember that information about you could be shared by 'friends' in social networks or accessed by other users. Do you really want everyone too see the text, images or video you are uploading? Once information is out there it's very hard to completely delete it from the web.

Use the Privacy Controls and Tools available! Most social networking sites have privacy tools which allow you to set your profile and other content so that particular users can view it (eg. viewed by friends only). Make sure you explore, understand and adjust these settings to make sure you are aware of and comfortable with the information other users can view about you.

Respect Other People's Privacy. Be careful to respect other people's rights when publishing content online (especially images). When in doubt, ask for permission before you publish. Remember that there are privacy issues around publishing images of other people online (especially children) and follow organisational policies when using these sites for learning and teaching.

Check Site Security. If you use shopping or banking sites, or subscribe to services on a website, check that the site facilitates safe and secure transactions. For example, look for the padlock in the bottom right of the browser window policy statement or https:// in the web address.

Maintain your computer’s security tools. It’s important to make sure you have an updated anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware and operating system updates. Some social networking sites can be used by hackers to distribute malicious code and/or spam.

Complaint Procedures. Most Social Networking sites have policies and grievance procedures in place. If someone posts something inappropriate on a Social Networking site, you can report the issue, and even request to have the content removed if it relates to you personally. Carefully explore the sites you are using and ensure you understand their policies and procedures.

Tips for Educators

Discuss Social Networking and issues of safety and privacy with your students. Suggested topics to discuss would include the issues associated with posting private information; explaining how to use social networking tools to make choices about which information is private and public, issues related to publishing images online and the terms of use that have been provided by the sites you will be using.

Discuss Cyber-bullying with your students (particularly if you are working with young people). Consider strategies and guidelines to ensure that bullying isn't an issue in your online learning environments. One way to achieve this is to engage students in creating an Online Learning Charter for their learning community, which provides guidelines on the right ways to behave when learning together online or participating in networked learning communities.

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5. Policies and Guidelines

The NSW Department of Education has a number of policies which relate to online safety, publishing online and staff's use of social networking sites. If you are using these tools in your classroom, it's important to be aware and understand the issues covered and the guidelines provided.

Policies Related to Staff
The eLearning Tools – Procedure available from the SWSI Intranet (PoD) outlines all the policies and procedures related to these Terms of Use. In particular, you should consult:

Policies Related to Students

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6. Find Out More About Social Networking Safely

Explore the following links for further information about safety and social networking. These resources will assist you in developing effective policies and strategies to ensure safety when implementing any online learning activity with your students.

Resources and Information about Online Safety

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7. What's Next?

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