No More Secrets


Image courtesy from Free-for-kids

There is actually a magazine that is titled Celebs Uncovered. It features never before seen photos, gossip and ‘the hottest showbiz news’. This is the kind of stuff that I often browse through when avoiding work or time in the kitchen. Who is Chris Martin from Coldplay dating now?, Where is The Duchess of Kent currently spending her winter break?, and checking out the nanny that Ben Affleck left his wife for. I click on all the hyperlinks given and find my way further into the private lives of others. I have always been of the opinion that celebrities need to deal with the fact their private life isn’t that private when they sign up for their job. Yet I am the first to be a little miffed if a friend posts a photo of me on facebook that I deem is not ‘flattering’. Let’s face it I can’t imagine it’s causing much of a stir around the world. So with this all said, privacy issues on the web, for me as an individual, an educator – yep, I need to reevaluate my thinking a little.

My colleague Mavis Wellington found a great quote by Computer Science Professor, Margo Seltzer that I think puts it out there pretty clearly: “Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible. How we conventionally think of privacy is dead.”  My previous idea of a private person was someone who kept things close to their chest, did not share much in conversations. Yet in today’s world, your private world is so much more than what is going on in your head and heart. My school can monitor my emails if they so wish,  phones can be tapped. Camera’s are everywhere, there are more than 6,500 CCTV camera monitors working in Heathrow Airport every day. Privacy has long been gone. I think the difference is it’s no longer just the Justin Beiber’s of the world who need to worry about it. It’s the you and me of the Jo public that need to become more aware.

Privacy issues are however something that seems tricky to navigate until of course, a problem arises and then we want to know about it. That website you sign up for, that click you make that takes you to the next step – you are out there. You are choosing to sign away your privacy rights and you need to be aware of the implications it may have. So what do I need to do I ask myself? Act on the advice I have been reading over the last few days and at least start with the basics.This article on internet privacy laid it out clearly and seemed to give ideas that were manageable. I need to take responsibility and become more vigilant about the implications and access technology has over me and my life.  Reading the article “The Myth of Online Predators” was an interesting read for parents and educators at keeping things in perspective. Lenore Skenasy states “Our job as parents is to prepare kids, not lock them away from technology.” This is a statement that I feel fits equally to us educators. Technology is part of today’s world and the future, we need to ensure our students are indeed prepared.

As an educator I feel more and more we find ourselves thinking ‘smart’ about the digital footprint we will leave if we make ‘that post’, as we consider who out there will be seeing it.  Nick Morrison’s article for TES writes that “For a certain breed of parent, there is nothing more enjoyable than possessing some prize gossip about a teacher at their child’s school,” she says. “Being a teacher is a bit like being a celebrity: every move is scrutinized and then exaggerated; wild speculation quickly becomes fact as stories enter the playground news machine.” ‘Back in the day’ gossip between friends or colleagues maybe laughed off,  but now ‘evidence’ found on social media is harder to ignore. We assume we have control over it but when we start to sign up for social networks such as facebook, and start sharing personal information, we are heading into murky waters. This year my school implemented a policy which does not allow staff members to befriend students on facebook or any other kind of social media until two years after they have graduated. Some students found this difficult to understand the reasoning behind. A post by Miriam Morningstar talks about how online beach holiday snaps of herself found their way to the eyes of some Grade 10 students. This highlights that even at this older age, our students are still not truly getting that once you post, it’s out there for everyone to see, unless you take steps to avoid this. We need to keep our students current about their learning and their rights. Our curriculum needs to start reflecting this.

The importance of being smart about what you post is something we need to model to our students at an early age.The internet is filled with tricks and scams for our young learners to fall into. The hyperlinks that we click on so freely, to a child may lead them to a game where suddenly they are typing in personal information to get access to the next level. If we are allowing our students to have access to technology, they need guidance on how to best use them from us. Upon searching the web, I found several great videos and teaching lessons such as those from Common Sense Education that I can use in my classroom to introduce and reinforce the need for privacy on the web. Seasoned online curriculum site Brainpop have recently upgraded their site to include a tech component, covering issues such as digital citizenship, cyberbullying and information privacy. Time for Kids has several great articles that are totally relevant that can inform our students further. These are great tools we can use in our classrooms to teach and or reinforce issues that are now part of our student’s daily lives. Through all of this we need to make sure our students receive the message that it is ok to post, to let people know what you are up too, what your dreams are. As my colleague Mavis Wellington recently posted, just be mindful that  “ Privacy is pretty much non-existent in today’s world, so why not simply live a life that you would be proud to share online”.  I could not agree more.

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2 Responses to No More Secrets

  1. Nicky Yeung says:

    Hey Cheryl,
    Thank you for the links! Looks like you did a lot of research!
    I agree it’s impossible to prevent it all completely, but giving students the skills to make better choices by being better informed is the way to go. And, that’s also why I was very happy to find all the links you included on your post.

    I read the article Internet Privacy is the Wrong Conversation, link to and the author suggests that there’s nothing we can do about tracking and absolute privacy, but what we should really fight for is for transparency for Internet users. I thought it was interesting because instead of fighting for privacy (which is hopeless), we should be fighting to be better informed.

    • Hi Nicky,
      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment on my post – I found this very exciting! I will be checking your link out with interest, I like the transparency path that is being suggested. At least that gives people the feeling of being more in control of choices they are making. I am sure I will learn something which is what this is all about!


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