The following is a collaborative effort between myself (Steve) and Sam Bowling. It is a list of ways to avoid getting into trouble online. This includes keeping data safe, ensuring the online safety of students, and also having a good online reputation.
The Internet is a wonderful invention that has brought the world to our doorsteps. The same technology has also opened new avenues of criminal intent and activity. By paying attention and practicing common sense, we can protect ourselves, while still enjoying the wonders of the web.
Check-ins – A dangerous feature
One large concern is the popularity of “checking-in” to places with apps like Facebook or Swarm (formerly known as Foursquare). While we realize it can be quite fun to share this information with friends, it can also be dangerous as these apps pinpoint a person's exact location. Location-based sharing can make a person a target for crime, both on the street and in the home. Our personal recommendation is to turn off the location services on our devices when it is not needed. On a personal standpoint, never do a check-in at your exact home address. This includes the feature: “Add location” on your Instagram. Once they have your address, criminals can track when you're not home, especially if you check in too much when on vacation. People will know that your house is empty and invade your home. Sure, the occasional check-in at the beach or at your favourite restaurant is harmless, but don't do it too often.
Avoid sharing photos of students publicly
Since we love to use social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, we post numerous updates that sometimes include photos. We never post pictures of students on our personal sites, and we do not allow them to post pictures of themselves. Not only can photos expose children to people who would do them harm, the pictures will be forever stored in the cloud database of the social media site, even after being “deleted” by the user. Many websites also outsource their cloud servers to other companies who specialize in this type of technology. One such company is SingleHop, who provides cloud hosting and managed hosting to those companies in need of a little extra expertise (you can check out their private cloud services here). It is important to find out if a company outsources their hosting, as you will want to make sure you trust the hosting company with your data, as well as the site you are using.
Some sites are even able to use a photo for promotional or marketing purposes, as outlined in their User Agreements, even if you only intended it to be seen by only a few people when you posted it. This practice is a serious invasion of privacy, and is another reason why we are very careful about what we post.
Keep your passwords safe!
Passwords are the gateway to the Internet and often the only protection a person has from cyber criminals. We always use secure passwords, which consist of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and change them every 30 days. If in need of a secure password, there are many password generators on the Internet which are available for free. These will help you create a randomized password that is very secure. Apple has created iCloud Keychain, which will create passwords for you and securely store them on all your devices. I (Steve) have also instructed my students to never use passwords that are easily guessed, such as variations of their names, their pet's name, the street they live on or the school they attend. I also urge them not to share their passwords with anyone except their parents. For adults, try getting a password app such as 1Password, so you don't need to worry about forgetting another password again. Try not to give your passwords away to anyone outside your extended family, not even your best friend.
Shopping – Buying Online
We do quite a bit of shopping online, as it is fast and convenient. Since there have been breaches of security around the Internet, we are extra careful about where we input credit card numbers and other financial information. The first thing to do is ensure the site is genuine and not a fake set up to phish for sensitive data. The next step is to check for the padlock symbol in the browser's address bar, as this indicates a secure connection to a server. This does not guarantee a site is safe, but it definitely adds a layer of protection. Try to avoid banking from your phone when connected to a public Wi-Fi, as personal data could be accessed by others using that same connection.
More Practical Advice:
Do NOT boast too much online, either on FaceBook, Twitter or anywhere else where the public can view. While these sites can't help but make us a little bit narcissistic , try to still be humble in your posts. If you are sharing “too much”, your friends will be annoyed and might even un-friend you.
Don't rant online about things that bother you. Have a complaint? Tell someone in private. Even though you may think its a springboard for getting things off your chest, it will be online forever. You may decide after you post to delete it, but anyone can take a screenshot and keep a copy. This information can be used against you in the future, in work and in your personal life. Never complain about students online, even if you don't use their real names.
As professionals, educators must be careful as to what we post and share online. Things can be taken the wrong way. People can find anything negative that is posted and turn it into something much bigger than it is. We should set an example to our students of good online etiquette. So much out there is harmful to them. We need to educate them into using the Internet as an the incredible tool that it is, and not a potentially dangerous one.
Contact Sam Bowling through Twitter.
Thoughts? Any other additions we need to add to this list? Please let us know in the comments! Like this post? Please share it with your colleagues!
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