A student’s take on selfies

Last week The Age and Sydney Morning Herald published an article by a year 11 student Olympia Nelson on the practice of teenage girls uploading sexy self portraits to social media. She explains:

If social media only caused narcissism, it wouldn’t be the worst thing. Instagram and Facebook are social networks that not only breed narcissistic tendencies but transform relations into a sexual rat race.

On these ubiquitous portals, the popularity of girls is hotly contested over one big deal: how sexy can I appear and bring it off with everyone’s admiration?

A common adult reaction to social media is to restrict things, as if that could ever be possible. You can’t force kids to be nice. The real problem isn’t something tangible like sexting or bullying, which adults focus on in patronising and unimaginative ways. The real problem relates to conformity. Kids are compelled to act the stereotype, because those who opt out commit themselves to social leprosy. Social media doesn’t need adult control. What we need is some good taste.

Read the whole article here.

Snapchat and sexting

Snapchat is an app for iOS and Android that lets the user send a photo that can self destruct after a set period of time. Snapchat explains:

You control how long you want your friends to view your messages. We’ll let you know if we detect that they’ve taken a screenshot!

Recently I read in The Age that Cosmo magazine says Snapchat is the safe way to sext as the photos can’t be kept. However, as the snapchat FAQs explains, anyone can take a screenshot or screencast of your pic before it disappears. The only difference is you can control who sees your original upload and you can be alerted as to who has saved your picture.

However, once someone has saved your pic, there’s no way of controlling where and when it is reposted. Also as snapchat explains, without enacted privacy controls,

By default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message.

Read Mashable’s take on snapchat here and Common Sense Media’s view of snapchat here.

The lowdown is that anything sent digitally has the ability to be redistributed at a later stage. The ‘think before you send’ mantra still applies.

The internet never forgets

In March, The Age published an article on how any minor crime or perceived misdemeanor, once reported online, can follow us around forever:

Back in 2010, the newsdesk at The Age received a desperate plea from a man who wanted to be forgotten. Let’s call him Alan. A young and foolish businessman, he was arrested 10 years ago at Melbourne airport when a baggage check found cocaine and another banned drug.

The Age published a simple, factual story in the paper and online, reporting his arrest, his contrition and his sentence – a good-behaviour bond without conviction. Alan promised the magistrate he would mend his ways.  But Google never forgets. Today, if you Google Alan’s real name, his past is exposed at the top of the search results: a link to The Age‘s report with a damning headline.

”This story still haunts him,” a close friend and colleague of Alan tells The Age. He is now ”a sober man who has learnt from his mistakes” trying to get back into his former industry. But everyone Googles potential employees these days. ”It has been eight years,” the friend said in an email. ”Let’s try and give him a shot …rather than have some headline cut down his chances.”

The article goes on to say that it is not in the interests of behemoths like Google and Facebook to remove information as this is where they make money. There is also an interesting debate about our privacy vs the right to know. Read the whole article here.

Creators of abusive websites could be charged

Following on from yesterday’s post where cybersafety expert Susan McLean called on police to charge creators of hate websites, The Age is reporting that police do intend to prosecute where there are grounds.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Dever said in the past couple of months police had had several pages shut down, including one that was selling guns and drugs, a page full of dead-baby jokes and a page with ”hateful and hurtful comments inciting murder” directed at police.

He said Facebook was ”very co-operative as long as due judicial process is followed”, and was willing to assist police in matters involving material that ”would encourage an act of violence or some illegal act”.

Read the whole article.

Is technology driving us crazy?

Recently The Age published a very interesting piece on the way technology is affecting our lives and our brains. There are several differing opinions;

”I see kids clinically who spend the whole day engaged with electronic media and it’s clearly a problem,” said Professor George Patton from the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Adolescent Health. ”During those teenage years when the brain is in a very active phase of development and learning to process information about relationships and emotions, there’s a concern that these kids are actually going to be wired differently in the future, given the malleability of brains at that age.

However, some specialists say there is already clinical evidence that behaviours such as online multitasking or addiction to Facebook ”likes” bear the hallmarks of medical conditions such as hyperactivity and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Richard Chambers is a headspace psychologist who assisted in the development of a program named Smiling Mind, where multitasking or ‘constant partial attention’ is minimised says:

”You can actually train this capacity to pay attention to what you’re doing, to watch the sunset, to listen to the music, to listen to the conversation or the teacher in class. As people do that the mind becomes calmer, levels of stress decrease, productivity improves and over time it can actually create functional and even structural changes in the brain,” Chambers said.

While Susan Greenfield, a neuroscientist at Oxford University

 has been the most vocal in raising the alarm on the shift from face-to-face contact to screen-based communication – a trend she says poses a bigger threat to humanity than climate change.

She argues that non-verbal cues such as body language and eye contact, which may be responsible for up to 70 per cent of our understanding of human messages, are not available to social media users, and therefore innate traits such as empathy are being diminished.

We know that the internet and social media are here to stay. However, what we don’t yet know is what is the long term affect of this massive change to the way we live and communicate. Read the whole article here.

Facebook joins cyber bully fight

Last week The Age published an article explaining how Facebook is joining the fight against cyberbullies.

FACEBOOK and the Victorian government have forged an Australia-first relationship that will today see 2000 secondary students take part in a cyberbullying exercise.

It comes after the Education Minister, Martin Dixon, met with Facebook’s Australian policy manager, Mia Garlick, in April to discuss a joint approach to cyber bullying.

Read the entire article here.

The rise of the ‘twitchfork’

Recently The Age published an article about how the ability to comment on websites anonymously has revealed a worrying trend.

“Does the net exaggerate our views, or are these views that people really hold? Either way, perhaps we can comfort ourselves with the idea that they are a tiny but vocal minority,” BBC reporter Richard Bacon wrote.

“Or maybe this is what we are really like. Perhaps our day-to-day social interactions are the artifice, and these forums expose a dreadful truth about human nature. Could it be that deep, deep down, we just aren’t very nice.” Read more.

Part of building a positive digital footprint is using real names when commenting. However, it is still an issue as to whether children and young adults should protect their privacy by commenting anonymously. It’s useful to remember that the ability to comment anonymously doesn’t give anyone the right to abuse either the privilege, the author or anyone else.

Parental stalking online ‘unwise’

Last week, The Age spoke with visiting social media researcher danah boyd about parents monitoring their children’s online activities.

PARENTS should not stalk their children online, warns Dr Danah Boyd, a leading US cyber safety expert visiting Australia to lecture on teens’ online privacy.

But Dr Boyd warns that constant parental online surveillance not only abuses teens’ privacy but also obliges them to forge coded forms of communication online, using in-jokes, shared references and even song lyrics to evade parental scrutiny.

Read the entire article here.

How do you keep your kids safe online?

An article in the Sunday Age discusses the responsibilities of parents in regards to their children’s cybersafety. Author Adam Turner explains how parents can help:

A common cybersafety rule is that the computer stays in the living area, positioned in such a way that anyone who walks into the room can see what’s on the screen. If notebooks are permitted in the bedrooms for studying, perhaps it’s on the condition that they recharge on the kitchen bench at night. The same rule can apply for mobile phones, which can also help combat cyberbullying.

Read the whole article here.