At the heart of our debate topic this week were issues of privacy, consent and online sharing as two teams mused over the topic of whether openness and sharing in schools is unfair to our kids. Team Agree started their opening statement with a bang by discussing the dangers of ignorance and permanence of children’s digital footprints as created by adults. Team Disagree argued for the reality of modern childhood experiences including the realm of social media. Their opening statement focused on safety as paramount and urged parents and educators to post based on being well-informed and with the appropriate intentions.
I have been thinking a lot about this topic; even prior to our course discussion. I continuously go back and forth between what is best for children: to share or not to share. I can certainly see the benefits and potential dangers of both sides of this argument. I really enjoyed how my classmate Melinda discussed that there isn’t necessarily and right or wrong answer but that you can do it right both ways.
I have thought a lot about how this would work as a parent who decides not to share photos of their children. Even though I value and respect this decision entirely, I can appreciate how challenging it must be to continuously advocate for your child to not have their photo shared on social media simply based on how increasingly entrenched social media is becoming in daily life. I constantly see photos of children at sports events, birthday parties and and other family events. Do you drop your child off at every birthday party and ask for photos not to be shared of them or have to police soccer games for parents potentially including your child in their photos? This seems like a really difficult job.
I also think of many parents who begin sharing photos of their child through pregnancy photos because they are excited about their new family member. In most of these instances, I would assume those people are not thinking about how their post is impacting their child’s privacy or beginning the life-long journey of digital citizenship before they are even born.
There are certainly many warning stories out there that side with Team Agree such as this story about an Austrian teen suing her parents for violating her privacy rights, the dangers of posting online and this article which indicates parents are responsible for protecting images of their children. In Data Collection, Political Candidate Edition, author Bill Fitzgerald reflects on how children’s information is being collected and stored in a digital paper trail like never before. These are but a few examples. However, the many of these potentially dangerous or personally harmful instances, the root problem can be explained away by this argument: “Each and every time we connect, we engage in some way that creates our online identity, our profile, our persona. And it happens automatically and too often without a lot of forethought about the identity that will be created” (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). When we think about adults posting children’s images and data on their behalf, this issue becomes far more grand. As Buchanan et. al (2017) argue in this article, “Digital footprints can be an asset or a liability depending upon how well they are managed”. As adults — parents and educators — we need to do a better job of how young people’s online identity is managed so that their digital footprint becomes an asset.
Interestingly, Team Agree and Team Disagree overlapped in their selected readings in the area that mattered most: children’s safety and privacy protection. Both teams shared articles that highlighted the importance of thinking BEFORE sharing. Which makes sense because we ask constantly ask kids to think before they act or think before they post, so in all fairness, parents and educators should have the same question reflected back on them. In fact, in an opinion piece, Give Your Children a Chance at Privacy, author Amy Webb, urges adults to be more informed; a suggestion made by both Team Agree and Disagree.
In addition, Team Agree and Disagree also overlapped in regards to the role of the teacher/parent as an instrumental guide for young people. My classmate Channing shared a great quote: “Kids are growing up in a digital playground and no one is on recess duty“. We simply cannot allow this to continue to be true. As “learning becomes more digital, educators at all levels are instrumental in building students’ understanding about how technology impacts both their personal and future professional lives. Educators are also instrumental in helping students develop lifelong habits to create and maintain a positive online identity (ISTE EdTek White Paper, 2015). The message here is simple: education about digital citizenship is as important for adults as for young people. Adults must also consider the implications of their actions when they are sharing on behalf of children.
While I believe all of this to be true, the classroom chat was a hot scene fueled by the debate topic this week. Much of this discussion focused on teachers being afraid to post online because of the ambiguity they felt surrounding privacy policies and the do’s and don’ts of posting online. So, my classmates (teachers who are informing themselves about these topics) could not agree on whether or not it was safe to share, whether policies in place regarding sharing of student information and images is adequate enough and despite the tips and tricks that are out there, what benefit or liability online sharing creates for young people of this generation.
To share or not share. That is the question.