I Believe… Don't. Do. (Internet Safety, Part 2)

I believe students have something important to say.

I believe they speak and make an impact on the world.

I believe they create work that endures.

I believe they make meaningful connections online.

I believe they need ownership of their digital footprint.

I believe that using a pseudonym online negates these statements.

Therefore, I believe that students should use their name when building an online presence.

photo credit: Tallent Show

Shocking, I know. School is starting back up here in the US, along with a host of posts from teachers warning children not to ever share personal information in their blogs. Don’t use your name. Don’t say your school name. Don’t talk about where you live. Don’t say what books you read. Don’t say what kind of toothpaste you use. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

No.

Do. Do share your name. Do own every single thing you say online. Do edit those words so you can be proud of them. Do be aware that people around the world- and down the street- know you are a kid. Do be safe around strangers- even if they know your favorite book or pet or your name- they are still strangers and you should treat them as such. Do build connections with friends.  Do understand that people around the world can find you- you are not invisible. Do talk about the wonderful things in your geographic area so others can learn from you. Do remember that your grandparents and future employers can see your work. Do, do, do.

(Freaking out yet? Take a look at my previous foray into this topic for some background…. Nameless, Faceless Children.)

I know this mentality presents some challenges and causes some discomfort. I’m sure teachers around the globe will be pointing out how ‘dangerous’ my students are online because they are using their full names (with parental permission). And posting photos. And recording audio. And video. They will be held up as an example of what not to do when blogging, especially in a format like the Student Blogging Challenge held by Edublogs several times a year. Teachers will shake their heads at how irresponsible I am as a teacher. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Meanwhile, we will build a digital portfolio we are proud to own. We will make global connections that will last for years and change our lives. We will understand that there is no such thing as anonymity online, and that we are traceable. We will prepare for colleges and employers to search for us online… and when they do? Oh, what a presence they’ll find!

I believe that students should use their name when building an online presence.

I believe students have something important to say.

I believe.

What do you believe?

6 thoughts on “I Believe… Don't. Do. (Internet Safety, Part 2)”

  1. Hi Julie,

    I want to thank you for this post! It is one of the few posts that has encouraged me to think for days.

    Initially on reading your post I felt I was agreeing with you whole heartedly. I firmly believe that developing a good digital footprint and owning what you say online is important.

    I think your children are very lucky to have a mum who is supportive in providing them the opportunity and scaffolding to develop their own place in the online world. I am equally impressed to note that you are supportive of an inquiry approach to learning.

    I believe as educators it is our responsibility to provide structures that are supportive of students developing a sound understanding of what their place in the online world could look like and the flow on results.

    As part of this I think it is important that we ensure that students are aware of the range of online communities that exist and the general expectations that exist within them. For example to participate in the world of gaming is quite different to that of the blogging arena. In both areas people form relationships and perspectives on each other, regardless of the name attributed to them. The one thing that stands out more than anything else is that your responses and actions are more heavily weighted in each, rather than some of the more superficial aspects that can be initial weighty factors in the face to face world. Not to mention that sometimes those who are less likely to participate in a face to face situation feel freer to do so online, one possible reason is due to having the think time to do so. In both cases when someone starts to develop a following, that they are happy with, the pseudonym is their online identity and they build on it. So in essence they are being true to themselves. I see this more about fitting with the environment or situational context.

    Being careful with regard to the amount of information shared is also important, this possibly exists more so in the privacy settings that one chooses to use in each community, but does need to go beyond that. In any community we need to think carefully about what we share. When it is in the written format, particularly on the web it can be there forever. Further to this understanding who your audience is can be a complete unknown on the web. You can choose to use twitter, join in with educational hashtags but what you are sharing can be viewed by anyone outside that sphere, if you have not locked your account down.

    From an educative perspective I firmly believe that it is important to always remember that school, regardless of the pedagogy undertaken, provides a place where students can explore and learn in a place that should allow for growth within a context that is safe. From the face to face perspective not anyone can enter the school or the classroom, permission must be provided. If using blogs, games and other online tools within the school environment this concept must also be applied.

  2. I have long held the belief that making children use pseudonyms encourages them to write and create things that are slightly inauthentic. There is great power in a a name. To be able to proudly stamp your name on something is one of the greatest experiences one can have. It is true ownership of one’s material. I believe that so long as we provide information and safety lessons that we are truly preparing our students for life in the information age. I’m glad you hold similar beliefs.
    -John

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