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Addressing safety concerns of online social networking

Facebook is like the Eagles’ “Hotel California:” You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. This loophole, which allows Facebook to take permanent ownership of all photos that are posted to the site is one that often goes unnoticed by adults, youth and children alike when they sign up for the world’s largest social networking site, and just one of the topics that will be covered at “Facebook 101,” a seminar being held June 16 at Park Manor Public School in Elmira.

Park Manor Public School principal James Bond and Grade 6 student Carter Hanley will be learning together about online safety at the school’s Facebook 101 session June 16.
Park Manor Public School principal James Bond and Grade 6 student Carter Hanley will be learning together about online safety at the school’s Facebook 101 session June 16.

“A lot of students don’t realize that what they put on the Internet is there forever,” explained Park Manor principal James Bond. “Their photos, the comments they write to their friends, all of it.”

Created to educate students, parents and educators about the benefits and risks of using the likes of Facebook and Twitter, “Facebook 101” is a seminar put on by Chris Vollum of SocialMedia Trust. So far, the workshop has been delivered to more than 90,000 students throughout Ontario.

“Our school board is doing a big push towards the awareness of digital citizenship,” said Bond. “It’s important that we teach our students not only to be good citizens in the online world, but to protect their safety as well. This seminar will help both students and parents have a better understanding of those issues.”

The seminar is split up into two parts. In the afternoon, students will attend a grade-appropriate elementary school presentation (Grades 5-8), roughly 55 minutes in length, including time for a student question-and-answer period. All aspects of Facebook will be addressed, including the importance and specific criteria of adding friends, how to minimize predators, stranger and bullying risks and applying Facebook’s newest basic, advanced and hidden privacy settings.  At 6 p.m. that same evening, parents are invited to the second half. Parents of students attending Riverside, John Mahood, St. Jacobs, Conestogo and Floradale public schools are also welcome to attend.

As we quickly approach the end of another school year, and anticipated increased recreational computer use over the summer months, school administrators believe the workshop is especially relevant.

“As of next year, the firewall that we have preventing Facebook use in schools will be lifted,” said Bond. “We want to have a good understanding of how to do that safely. Parents and students both need to be made aware of the implications and potential consequences of cyber-bullying and misuse. ”

The cost to attend the workshop is one dollar, and everyone is welcome to attend.

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