August 7, 2006

College orientations including DSN

This post was last updated on August 8th, 2006 at 09:45 pm

College students and the environments in which they live and play are changing, so it makes sense that the orientation sessions for new college freshmen are also different in some locations. According to the CNN article “College students warned about Internet postings” from August 2nd:

From large public schools such as Western Kentucky to smaller private ones like Birmingham-Southern and Smith, colleges around the country have revamped their orientation talks to students and parents to include online behavior. Others, Susquehanna University and Washington University in St. Louis among them, have new role-playing skits on the topic that students will watch and then break into smaller groups to discuss.

College students are not the only ones who need this sort of practical orientation to Internet safety and safe digital social networking (DSN.) All students who are using the Internet need to be having these types of discussions with adults, and the conversations must go beyond a lame, digital immigrant plea of “don’t use those websites.”

Of course students are going to keep using digital social networking websites. The updated English WikiPedia list of social networking websites is an eye-opener: It claims (with citations) 40 million users on Xanga, 22 million users on Bebo, over 7 million users on Facebook, and almost 100 million users on MySpace. Plus many, many more. Amazing. And those numbers are most likely only going to continue to grow.

One of the big messages teens and others need to understand and start to live out regards the importance of not giving out TOO MUCH information online, since most social networking websites are globally accessible to anyone: including both potential and actual friends, enemies, criminals and predators. As this CNN article points out, however, the issues at hand are not only focused on Internet safety: They also regard the “permanent record” which people who are “writing the web” are creating about themselves that will likely be referenced by future employers, educational institutions, potential boyfriends/girlfriends, and others.

Saint Andrew’s School in California is offering the following tips for parents, to make DSN sites like MySpace safer for their children:

  • Become a member. It’s quick, easy, free and will give you access to more material on the site.
  • Do a “Friend Finder” search for your child or his or her friends. Make sure to use their first and last names.
  • A person’s MySpace profile page won’t always tell you the person’s full or real name, as many users only list their first name or go under a pseudonym. If you do a “Friend Finder” search using someone’s first and last name, you can usually pull up their profile if they are members.
  • Searches by such criteria as the name of the school a student attends, e-mail address and ZIP code also are possible.
  • Go through your child’s profile with him or her and identify and remove any items that provide specific information that would allow someone to assume his or her identity or be able to identify where the child can be found at any particular time.
  • Have your child set his or her profile to “private” to prevent strangers from accessing it.
  • Check out the safety tips from WiredSafety and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children listed below. Both sites offer ways to keep our children safe while they explore the online world.

Whether you’re about to start the fall school term in the northern hemisphere or you’re in the middle of winter term in the southern hemisphere, consider sharing similar suggestions with the parents of the students you teach.