Use of a device implies consent and makes our Private lives Public by default.

Facebook loads 100 million hours of video each and every day. Facebook currently stores more than 250 billion photos from this year alone.

It is essential for Parents and schools to consider the impact of social media on student privacy and of publishing student life online. What was once private is now assumed to be public.

It is important that we understand, what we as a society once openly acknowledged as private – is now assumed by all the social media devices to be content for public broadcast.

 

Amidst all these very open channels of communication that continually capture every thought signified by a click and every photographic moment uploaded to Instagram, all the details of our private lives are catalogued in glorious technicolour.

With a mobile phone in the hand of every person next to you – it has become impossible to manage the levels of exposure to which we are subject and we often don’t have much say over what we want to maintain as private and what we consent to publicly share.

It is important for policy makers to understand the implied consent inherent in all social media technology.

Social media use by schools is present everywhere. The benefits of social media technology create new opportunities for community engagement but at the same time, risks making personal student identification far easier. It is now more than ever critically important for Schools to continually update their approach to policy as social media technology evolves.

Permission to publish online, a photo or video of a child varies between schools depending on whether they are government or non-government institutions. When a student enrols in a school, school administrators are obligated to seek parental permission, preferably in writing, to publish a child’s identity across all communication media. This should include apps, newsletters, promotional material, websites, radio, television and social media.

Upon admitting a student to the school it is advisable for schools to review their own cultural and legal requirements regarding permissions to publish student information online. In this way, everyone concerned stays updated with the latest policy modifications.

The Case in hand …

Recently, Teach Queensland struck controversy, not only for posting a racially offensive advertisement on Facebook but for using an image of a student without parental permission. The organisation has since redacted the post and apologised unreservedly.

Before the arrival of social media, as parents, our decision-making process used to be straightforward. Life was private by default and only public with effort.
Today it is important for parents to understand that the reverse is most definitely the case – in that our information is public by default and only private with effort.

Some tips for parents to secure their children’s online identity?

So how do schools and parents avoid mistakes with social media and publishing our children’s school lives online?

Parents should expect schools to be open and transparent about the use of photos and videos on their official social media sites. They should also expect a school to clearly state how they protect the privacy of their children online. Special consideration should also include the custody and well-being of a child if online publishing might place a child at risk of harm.

Parents should review the permission to publish information set out by the school with care. Consent to publish should be in writing. It should clearly state the official channels of communication where publishing will occur, define the use of a child’s name online and provide parents with a yes or no option for permission to publish.

Information about the storage and access of your permission to publish and who can access it should be clear. Parents should clarify the settings on the school’s social media channels in relation to tagging, facial recognition and geolocation software.

Many schools complete such information using an online form using checkboxes. Before starting – clear each checkbox then carefully review the permissions by reading and understanding what rights each permission grants as you complete the online form.

Whether it is online or in hard copy, this process should align with the school’s policies and procedures regarding social media, the storage and security of personal information.

What should parents understand about using social media technology?

Whenever anyone posts photos or videos online we are contributing to our digital identity which was created when we signed up for the service. This means that the information that comprises our personal digital identity is shareable and searchable on the internet and particularly accessible through social media.

Searchability is facilitated by Tagging (which is assigns a piece of content or information such as a personal name or link to a persons online identity), facial recognition software (which identifies or verifies a person from a digital image) and geolocation software (which identifies the GPS geographical location of a person) all of which are commonplace in social media apps and assist in sharing and searching personal information.

Social Media technology assumes that because you have chosen to use the Social media app that you consent to full use and accessibility of all its marvellous features. In other words, consent is assumed as soon as you turn the device on or download the app.

All of these features impact an individual’s privacy providing a link to all their other online information.

Parents must consider what information they wish to keep private and what they actually consent to be public – and now we consciously have to make that distinction and choice.

The benefits of social media connectivity

Considering the privacy of our children is now far more complex than it ever was, we have even less reason to be fearful and shy away.

Using social media in schools has enormous potential for parents and can make a positive impact on the whole community including our children. It can be the impulse to start a face-to-face conversation, overcome distance and isolation, support the delivery of learning, to celebrate student and teacher victories, building self-esteem and character through personal achievements.

As educators, principals and captains of our schools, we cannot promote advocacy of social media in the hearts and minds of parents unless we get the fundamentals right. Minimizing the risk to all is the product of robust policy, careful and continual scrutiny of critical privacy and permission procedures.

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