Safety and security online have been issues going back to the beginning of the Internet. There are special concerns for teachers and parents that persist today as more and more people consume an ever increasing amount of media daily and participate in social networks. In a main quote in the book “Ready Player One,” the protagonist Wade Watts states...
“In the OASIS, you could become whomever and whatever you wanted to be, without ever revealing your true identity, because your anonymity was guaranteed.”
In Ready Player One, there is an anonymity that this guaranteed in the Oasis. In the real world, this is not the case. Many websites track you as you go from website to website with cookies. Even if your screen name is not your real name, there is a good chance that if someone wanted to find out who you are, they could.
Anonymity is also what helps people do something called trolling, hiding behind fake names to post negative comments. I’ve noticed trolling being a big problem since the first days of the Internet. This has been one of the main problems with the Internet.
Teachers must maintain professionalism in schools but also in their social media usage. There is a great responsibility that teachers and parents have toward guiding children in their usage of the Internet. Google has provided a set of learning modules around Internet Safety called ”Be Internet Awesome". Common Sense Media provides some good tools for helping to gauge appropriate Internet media content (such as movies or television programs), and offers suggestions for constructive conversation for parents/teachers to have with students. Still, as platforms and apps evolve, as educators we must continue to learn and understand these new platforms, their opportunities, and the challenges posed by them.
As a college educator, I have seen benefits to representing myself professionally online. Using twitter, I represent myself in my Personal Learning Network, and I also maintain a personal website. For older students with the right mentoring, sharing online portfolios can be helpful for getting into grad school or getting an internship.
Modeling positive digital citizenship can be a powerful tool. More and more there are resources emerging to help support the development of a positive digital identity. Understanding safety and security and internet privacy are elements of becoming an active digital citizen. I'm including a graphic from the DQ Institute that informs some of this work. Safety and security online are a component of digital citizenship. Also mentioned in the podcast is the The Social Institute, which advocates for the positive use of social media by providing guidance and curriculum.
As an optimist, I like to think of Virtual Reality as a second try at the Internet. Could we see Virtual Reality platforms where there is no anonymity in the future? What would that look like? Would this solve the troll problem if everyone interacting online was authentic and tied to a real world identity?
How can we learn from Ready Player One the movie, and have real conversations about security and safety with our children and students?
Check out this week's podcast to hear our conversation about safety and security as inspired by the movie, "Ready Player One."
One more thing...since we mention kid president in the podcast, here's a quick video of him addressing negativity on the Internet to help you #makeithappy. He's an example of a child on the Internet who is making a positive change in the world.