School to monitor students’ social media posts

In an interesting development, CNN is reporting that a California school district is spending over $40,000 on monitoring students’ Facebook posts, comments, tweets and the like for  a year.

The district in Glendale, California, is paying $40,500 to a firm to monitor and report on 14,000 middle and high school students’ posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media for one year.

Though critics liken the monitoring to government stalking, school officials and their contractor say the purpose is student safety.

As classes began this fall, the district awarded the contract after it earlier paid the firm, Geo Listening, $5,000 last spring to conduct a pilot project monitoring 9,000 students at three high schools and a middle school. Among the results was a successful intervention with a student “who was speaking of ending his life” on his social media, said Chris Frydrych, CEO of the firm.

Do you think this is a good way to keep students safe or an invasion of privacy? Read the whole story and see the video here.

Ask.fm makes changes to safety policy

For a while now, the social media site Ask.fm has been in the news, after complaints about abuse leading to suicides. Stuff.co.nz reports that:

…it has about 65 million users.

But half of them are under 18 – meaning that the site’s active user base consists largely of children.

Part of the site’s problem is that it’s a social media site with virtually no privacy settings and no real identity controls.

Facebook, by contrast, has made efforts to ensure that a high percentage of its accounts belong to real people – and it deletes the accounts of fake users.

It also has privacy controls. You can lock down your account completely, if need be, shutting out the world.

You can’t do any of that on Ask.fm.

Now it seems that Ask.fm is in the process of changing its safety policy. TechCrunch reports

Ask.fm said today it will make the report button more visible, and will be adding a dedicated report category for ‘bullying and harassment’ — committing to making these changes next month. It also said it will increase the visibility of an (extant) option to opt-out of receiving anonymous questions to help users moderate the kind of content they receive from other users. This change will be implemented in October.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission aired this story in May about abuse on social media sites including ask.fm.

 

Like, post, share

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has published the final version of the report Like, post, share: young Australians’ experience of social media.

Some of the results include:

  • Two thirds of 12-13 year olds (67 per cent) used a social networking service (SNS) in the last four weeks on a computer, 85 per cent of 14-15 year olds have done this, as have 92 per cent of 16-17 year olds.
  • The younger age group (eight to 11 years) are active social network users – 78 per cent of eight to nine year olds and 92 per cent of 10-11 year olds have used a social network. The most popular social network amongst this younger age group was YouTube—more than half of the eight to nine year olds surveyed (53 per cent) and the majority of 10-11 year olds (69 per cent) had used this site.
  • The majority of 12-17 year olds reported having used a social network,– especially those aged 14-17 years (97 per cent of 14-15 year old and 99 per cent of 16-17 year old internet users).
  • Facebook was the most popular social network service for 12-17 year olds. The majority of Facebook users use the site at least daily and in some cases, more often. For example, the majority of Facebook users aged 14 and over in our study were more likely to use Facebook more than once a day (47 to 50 per cent) than daily (32 per cent). (page 8)
  • Twenty one per cent of 14-15 year olds reported having been cyberbullied, compared with four per cent of eight to nine year olds. Reported experiences of cyberbullying amongst 10-17 year olds appears stable since 2009, but has marginally increased for the youngest age group (eight to nine year olds).
  • The children and young people who reported that they had been cyberbullied were also asked who they told, and the majority did tell someone. All the eight to 11 year olds who had experienced cyberbullying told someone, and the majority of the older children did so as well (89 per cent of 12-13 year olds, 93 per cent of 14-15 year olds and 87 per cent of 16-17 year olds told someone).
  • Thirteen per cent of 16-17 year olds reported that within their group of friends, either they or someone else has sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos or videos of themselves to someone else. Eighteen per cent of 16-17 year olds reported that they or someone within their group of friends had received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos or videos of someone else. Parents underestimated the extent to which their children were exposed to sexting.

Read the whole report here.

In Google we trust

On Monday night, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Four Corners program aired a story entitled In Google we trust.

Every hour of every day, our digital interactions are being recorded and logged. We live in the age of ‘big data’, where seemingly mundane information about how we go about our lives has enormous value.

Four Corners, with the help of expert data trackers, we follow the information trail of an ordinary Australian family. We follow their data over a typical day, watching as it is surreptitiously recorded by government agencies and private organisations.

Who gathers the information, what are they doing with it and what are your legal rights?

Watch the video here.

The bins have ears

In another blow to privacy, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported that shopping centres and street side rubbish bins are tracking us.

Rubbish bins tracking pedestrians as they walk along the street sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. But a few weeks ago it emerged that recycling and rubbish bins installed along London’s Cheapside Street were monitoring pedestrians through millions of smartphones.

However, it’s not just the residents of London that need to be aware of this.

Australia’s Westfield already uses this technology to track smartphones at three shopping centres. ”Westfield is capable of using the MAC identifier system in its centres but cannot collect any data other than to know smartphones are moving within,” a company spokeswoman said.

Westfield offers free internet access in three centres across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Visitors can opt in to the service but Westfield can also monitor the movements of smartphones without the owners logging in to its wi-fi network.

Its privacy policy states it collects information ”where devices are able to connect to, or are identifiable by, in-centre infrastructure” and that it uses ”this information so that we can tell … where shoppers spend most of their time”.

Read the whole article here.

Helping families live safe digital lives

Yoursphere for parents provides an amazing array of resources on

  • Facebook must-knows
  • social media
  • cybersafety and
  • privacy

for students and parents. Although some posts are US specific, most of the resources are applicable to us in Australia.

Mary Kay Hoal is the author and creator of Yourshpere, a US based site with a wealth of information on ways to keep safe when using social media. “She is an Internet safety expert in the USA and the founder of Yoursphere.com.”