Securus

e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

Best practices for safe social networking

Social networking
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

Social media is a wonderful tool to help stay connected with family and friends. It has bridged distances and brought the world closer as never before. The best feature of this kind of connectivity is the pleasure derived from being able to share our lives with others and feel involved in theirs. However, as with many innovations, social networking comes with its own set of challenges, which is why moderation and caution need to be exercised at all times.

Social networking sites are online platforms where users can create a personal profile and interact with others on the same site. The idea is to connect with friends by sharing personal information and that is where, knowingly or otherwise, we can become vulnerable. The virtual world often encourages us to reveal much more about ourselves than we would if we were meeting someone in person. This makes it important to observe basic rules and guidelines to stay safe while making optimal use of technology.

Here are some of the best practices for safe social networking. These will ensure you make use of social media in the most positive way and help to eliminate risks associated with it.

  • Never disclose too much information about yourself such as contact details, your address or your daily schedule.
  • Go through the terms and conditions even if they might seem tiresome to read. Check out if there are adequate privacy measures in place and change any default settings to those that provide you with maximum security. Ideally, your profile should be visible only to your friends, and not to friends of friends.
  • Disable the geolocation feature so that details about your location are never included in your posts.
  • Make sure you are aware how to block unwanted users from connecting with you and accessing your content.
  • Pick a user name that is neutral and protect your account by using strong passwords that include upper and lower case letters, symbols and digits. It is always a good idea to change passwords regularly.
  • Watch out for any posts in which you are tagged by your friends and for any comments that might reveal unnecessary personal details about your location, routine and activities. Never post any holiday dates that might end up as a valuable resource for a burglar.
  • Guard against fake friend requests and posts from groups asking you to visit and ‘like’ their pages. Be wary of strangers on social media just as you would in the real world.
  • While commenting on posts, make it a point to remain neutral and never get into any arguments on any sensitive topics that might be construed as offensive.
  • Ensure that you have installed internet security programs on your computer and that all anti-virus software is up to date. As “malware” or malicious code spreads via the social network, be wary of links posted on your friend’s profile pages. Do not click on obscured URLs without verifying them (by using URL preview services such as expandmyurl.com or longurlplease.com) first. Once you have determined the site as genuine, use a bookmark to access that site in future.
  • Guard against hijacking of your account by looking out for any warning signs – for example, passwords not working or any logins into your account at times when you were not online. You can set up alerts that send you an email if your account was accessed from a different location, or a different device from the one you usually use.

A little prudence will go a long way in keeping your social networking account private and safe. Keep the above steps in mind while you enjoy communicating with your friends, no matter where you are in the world.

 

e-Safety guidelines for schools and teachers

e-safety
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Internet has enabled young people to explore, connect, create and learn in ways never imagined before.  It has, in fact, given us all immense power. It has often been said that “with great power comes great responsibility.” So how can we ensure our children are using this power responsibly? The answer is e-Safety education.

e-Safety is constantly evolving. One company that has been instrumental in safeguarding young people online in the UK is Securus, the leading e-Safety solution for schools and colleges. Securus monitors all computer-based activities, both within and outside of places of learning, and alerts school authorities to anything that suggests a child may be at risk or is breaching acceptable use policies.  Since 2002, more than 3,500 educational establishments have enjoyed the benefits Securus provides, by identifying and preventing thousands of online threats to children every day.

One major concern raised recently by the government is cyberbullying.  A staggering 69% of all school age children report having been bullied, with a large proportion taking the form of cyberbullying.  It is not just the children who suffer, however.  A  guide released by the Department for Education reveals that 21% of teachers have reported derogatory comments posted about them by children on social media sites. Read our blog to delve a bit deeper into cyberbullying.

e-Safety guidelines for teachers

In November 2013, the Guardian published an article, which reported that schools play a very important role in confronting online abuse. A majority of teachers feel that schools should improve their levels of online safety education.

How can schools help keep students safe online?

Quiz –  You could use a quiz to emphasise the importance of using strong passwords for online security. For example: what was your first pet’s name? What is your date of birth? What is your email address? Or, what is your favourite film? After you obtain the answers, tell them that you now have the information to retrieve their passwords. Encourage them to make the connection between these questions and regularly asked security questions online, and teach them techniques to make the information more secure.

School policy –  many schools have embraced e-Safety, but how many of them consider e-Safety education to be mandatory in their schools? Ensure that school networks operate like home networks – they should be open and trusted, but with regular monitoring and honest discussion when breaches are made.  Additionally, teach your pupils how to use online tools effectively for personal use, education and socialising. Also, help them develop critical thinking skills around all aspects of being online.

Involve older students –  peer education is one of the most positive ways to build awareness on e-Safety. Elect a group of older pupils, and provide them with in depth training to enable them to become e-Safety ambassadors who can train students, staff and parents. Here is what  e-Safety advisor specialist, Alan Mackenzie has to say about this approach: “The students were particularly responsive to this approach as the advice was practical, realistic and relevant. There were no mentions of dated social networking sites or advice of the ‘don’t meet online friends’ nature, which often typify the traditional e-Safety one-off assemblies.”

Engage parents –  e-Safety discussions should be part of the school curriculum and not just something spoken about at an annual event. Families should be encouraged to participate, e-Safety is, after all, a shared responsibility.  There should be regular and open communication with families, where parents can be educated on e-Safety, covering such topics as using filters, parental controls and home computer security. To learn more about how to protect children using parental controls, read our blog.

Be positive –   When talking to youngsters about the Internet, show them its positive aspects as well as its dangers. Do not start any discussion on e-Safety in a manner that could scare them and always emphasise using the Internet carefully and responsibly.

The e-Safety tools available today should help us to feel positive about technology. How positive are you?

Facebook fundamentals – privacy settings you can share with your students

Facebook
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Classroom instruction has undergone a major shift, with technology replacing many traditional means of teaching and interaction. Today, teachers increasingly use social media as a platform for communicating with their pupils and as a hub for discussion with both parents and students. Facebook pages have become a great way to post updates for students and also keep parents informed about classroom activities.

On the flip side, however, social media can create a dilemma for educators when it comes to separating their professional and personal profiles online. Pupils may be intrigued by their teachers’ lives and take a look at their private photos or check out their network of friends So, is it possible for teachers to maintain privacy in the digital sphere?

If you are an educator who is wondering how you can use social media in the classroom without compromising your privacy, here are a few tips that can help your personal profile remain discrete from your professional one.

The very first step – check your privacy settings

Click on the lock symbol on the Facebook toolbar and it will take you through a three-part privacy check to determine who can view and access your posts and profile. Always ensure that this is set to “friends”. If a little globe icon appears when you are about to share an update, it means that the post will be public and that you need to re-set your privacy settings.

See how your profile appears to the public

If you want to check how your profile appears when viewed by the general public or by a particular friend, Facebook has the “View as” tool that appears as three dots at the top of your profile page, beside the “view Activity log” button. This will show you exactly what is visible to others when they access your personal page and you can then take necessary steps to filter that information.

Set up “Pages” or “Groups”

You can set up a page or create a group on Facebook that your students can access and use to communicate with each other and share updates. These pages are independent of your personal profile and you do not need to add the members of your group as friends. You can also customise the privacy settings of this group to disclose only what you choose to share with your professional connections.

Protect your friend network

As almost the whole world is on Facebook, you will be invariably connected to half of that world. If a student does manage to find you, chances are that they may stumble upon the contacts on your friend list and access profiles of several other teachers and common acquaintances. You can prevent this by clicking on the Friends tab on your profile and then the pencil icon, appearing at the top right-hand corner.

Make your past photos inaccessible

You may prefer to keep your old photos from your earliest posts on Facebook private.

You can apply the “Limit old posts” option by going to Settings and then to Privacy. To keep it most secure, you could select “friends only” from the list.

Clean up the apps

When we play games on Facebook, we inadvertently give the app the permission to access our profiles and post to our timelines. It is best to be in complete control of what is being posted on your behalf. Therefore, it is worthwhile doing a regular clean-up of your apps by deleting them from the Settings tab.

Make your profile inaccessible to search engines

The easiest way to find information on a topic or on a person is to look them up on Google. One way to prevent your students from being able to find you online is to ensure that your profile does not appear in the search results by Google or other search engines. In order to do this, go to your Privacy Settings and edit the search engine option.

Watch out for the tags

Friends may tag you in posts as a reminder of the good times you have shared, but these posts might be more informal than the image you would prefer to project to your students. As you have no control over the audience who sees the post, it is best to remove the tag and request your friends delete the posts altogether. You can also customise the options in the Timeline and Tagging section in Settings, to limit the tags that show up on your timeline.

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