If you are a student in Korea International School, most likely, you will be seen carrying a Macbook. Especially in high school, there is no doubt about the benefits of using Macbooks as a means of education. Yet, as much as technology in classrooms yield hefty benefits, there are just as many harmful side effects that occur due to the supplement.
And one major, ongoing problem is the issue of Internet privacy and cyberbullying derived from social networking. Imagine the consequences when SNS users are oblivious underage teenagers, such as sixth graders in KIS. Out of the 48 sixth grade students surveyed, 36 own a Facebook account. And all 36 KIS sixth grade students have admitted to lying about their age on Facebook.
Underage teenagers face three major risks on SNS, which are content, contact, and commercial risks. Content risks involve reliability information, such as wrong information or gossip posted on site walls. Contact risks that derive from communication (instant messaging) involve hate messages, or indirect bullying like joining hate groups. Commercial risks include the misuse of personal data, where the user’s behaviour is tracked to help target various advertisements. Teens are especially vulnerable as they “have a harder time controlling their impulses and have higher thrill seeking and disinhibition scores than adults” (An intervention study in Social Network Education).
Since last year, our club, SPREAD (a social sciences research club), decided to approach this issue of SNS privacy and cyberbullying in relation to younger KIS students in the Middle School. A group of four freshmen students acted as “student teachers” to educate middle schoolers on Internet awareness.
Motivated by sci-fi movies, The Truman Show and Minority Report, that shocked us with the explicit privacy consequences we face in our daily life, we wondered, is there any way we can help, perhaps sixth graders, from facing online risks in social media? And so began our experiment called “Awareness Education on Social Media Usage for KIS 6th Graders.”
We directed the awareness education upon KIS sixth graders – where rising middle school students here at KIS first receive their Macbooks, the most vulnerable state to begin social networking. Our research question was, “Will education on social media online safety and usage, improve social media awareness for Sixth Grade students?”
To initiate the experiment, we arranged schedules with two Sixth Grade advisory classes of Ms. Meaghen Odell’s and Ms. Melinda Clark’s. We taught four lessons on SNS Education to each of the two advisories, along with tests and surveys prior to and after our experiment. The SNS Awareness lessons were organized in the order of, 1) Becoming aware of the overall privacy dangers of SNS, 2) Specific privacy criteria risks, 3) Specific types of SNS with its privacy concerns, and 4) Behavior in SNS.
For ten days, we taught both Ms. Odell and Ms. Clark’s advisories on social media during lunchtime. The club provided four keynotes to guide each lesson, and tried our best to create an interactive environment. We showed various videos, encouraged students to answer questions, and quizzed students at the end, with chocolate as reward.
And for the results: The results were determined through a survey comparing advisories that received awareness education versus advisories that did not. For advisories that received education, 8 out of 15 students in Ms. Odell’s advisory changed their privacy settings (i.e. blocking strangers, changing profiles to private, etc) and one student deactivated their Facebook after the education. Next, a short-answer question was asked upon naming solutions that can prevent SNS violations. In every of the 15 students’ response “Don’t post inappropriate posts/photos that you’ll regret” was included. Other solutions included “Never giving out personal information, logging out of shared computers, not accepting strangers’ friend requests, and more.” Thirteen out of 15 students wrote that the awareness education was helpful.
But for advisories that did not receive any education (Mr. Jeff Jacobsen, Mr. Lloyd Clark), the results were surprising. Twelve out of 17 students wrote “I don’t know” or left the answer blank, on the question of solutions to prevent SNS violations. Five out of 17 students answered that “It’s okay to post anything in the Internet because you can delete it.” Two students answered “Yes” to the question “Your friend is having a party this weekend, so you should post their name, face picture, and home address so that everyone can come.” One student admitted to having experience “hacking another student’s account for fun.” Eight students admitted to having an experience of “an embarrassing photo of oneself getting posted online unwillingly or writing inappropriate language in posts.”
Overall, the Social Media Awareness Education proved successful at least upon sharing basic ideas of SNS consequences, and solutions to prevent them. Below are reactions by the Sixth Grade Advisory teachers, Ms. Odell and Ms. Clark.
“The HS students who visited my 6th graders served as excellent role models. The younger students tend to be very unaware of the long-term implications of their activity on social networking sites. The SNS education program opened them to new information and perspectives about their on-line presence. Thank you to the student-teachers!”
“The confidence, knowledge and friendly professionalism exuded by these girls based on SNS Awareness education, was stellar. The 6th grade students appreciated the knowledge and friendliness of these older students. This has resulted in appreciating the importance of their individual security and their overarching capacity to be empowered and sensitive to social networking, as responsible participators. Thank you!”
– Sammie Kim (’18)