Davidson students get a lesson in digital safety
by Staff Writer
The online world of Facebook, instant messaging, message boards and chat rooms can be daunting to even the most technology savvy kid growing up in today’s digital world.
As local schools integrate more technological education into their curriculum to produce students who can compete with their peers worldwide, and more kids than ever are using social networking sites, students can spend hours parked in front of a computer or screen. And, as part of Tuesday, Nov. 29’s Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety Night, a group of Community School of Davidson seventh-graders helped their younger counterparts make sense of the rules for navigating the Web.
“Basically, the seventh-graders have been studying the topics of online safety, cyber bullying, protecting intellectual property and other subjects that relate to digital safety and citizenship,” said Community School of Davidson counselor Ann Marie McAfee. “Now they get to share that information with some of the school’s younger students.”
Throughout the week leading up to the event, students in Michael Wolfe’s technology class created short videos that explained, illustrated or demonstrated different aspects of digital safety. One group’s video showed a young girl’s job prospects being ruined after video footage of a fight with her younger brother gets posted on the internet, while another finds a girl troubled that a particularly annoying boy finds out the details behind a party she had with her girlfriends due to a Facebook status update.
During Cyber Safety Night, the students got to share their work with fifth- and sixth-graders, while their parents attended a cyber safety workshop led by McAfee and the school’s Business Management and Personnel Director Kevin Green. Some of the seventh-graders were on hand to answer questions their younger peers may have had after viewing the videos.
Wolfe also showed students how easy it can be to leave a “digital footprint,” or a traceable record of an Internet user’s online activity, and how easy it can be for an identity thief or other threatening individual can solicit crucial information in a matter of minutes. Those worried about the kinds of information about themselves lurking on the Web should search their names on an online search engine, like Google.com, and take the proper steps toward getting the information removed.
“There is good news,” she said. “Most sites that collect and display personal information, like phone numbers, addresses, family members’ names and your age will take the information down if you ask. But you first have to find that information and realize that it is out there before you can do that.
She also instructed students on how to go about dealing with a cyber bully.
“If I know that somebody is being cyber bullied, does that mean I should call the police?” Wolfe asked her students. “Most police departments have a cyber tip line and I should report the cyber bullying by calling it,” she said.
Overall, seventh-graders instructed their peers to enjoy the opportunities for creativity and self-expression offer by the Internet, while remaining cautious and vigilant of its dangers.
“The Internet is a really cool place where you can practically become different people,” said Madison Davis in her video presentation. “But sometimes those good things go bad.”
Staying safe online
Seventh-graders at Community School of Davidson shared the following tips to keep kids, and adults, safe online:
• Be careful of what you post on social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace. Even if you have restricted your privacy settings, you never know who can view your page.
• Make sure you personally know and trust someone before adding him or her as a friend on a social network.
• Even if you delete a photo, status update or video, it can be copied and preserved online forever. Think before posting something you might regret later.
• If you are cyber bullied, do not reply to the bully’s provocations, save any nasty messages to your computer and tell a trusted adult. Local police departments have cyber crime units that can handle these situations.
• Before using a photo, video or song from the Internet in your work, such as a presentation, Youtube video or personal web site, check to see if the work falls under the federal Fair Use law.
• Manage your own “digital footprint.” Periodically search your name on a search engine to see what personal information may be available to the public. Contact sites to remove information you find too revealing.