Sep 28, 2016

Legal and Ethical contexts in my digital practice.

According to Metcalf [2016] there were 2.307 billion social media users as of January this year with the prediction from Statista of this number growing to 2.95 billion users by 2020 – 4 years time! The internet and social media is the world our students are born into. Is not our ethical duty as educators to teach social online citizenship skills? I do not believe that we can rely on communities and parents to do this effectively. am reminded on an incident nearly 10 years ago now….when I first decided to have a Teacher profile on Facebook as well as a private Facebook account.  So many children [even though they shouldn't be on Facebook, they are] want to keep in touch with teachers – my decision rested on using it for educational purposes and continuing to educate students even after they’d left my classroom. It also opened up the conversation with students within my class to feel comfortable discussing issues with me. Now I am fully aware that they shouldn't have been on Facebook as the requirement is being 13 years or over, however, I am also not going to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand and think it’s not happening when it clearly is. An incident arose in quiet conversation where a female student asked me how to stop someone from requesting friendship via Facebook. She had been approached a number of times by the same male whom she did not know. Am I pleased she felt comfortable enough to talk to me YES! Am I grateful she knew I had a Facebook page and knowledge of the Privacy settings YES! Should she have been able to discuss it with her family YES! But she didn’t……too often students feel more comfortable discussing personal things with unrelated people – in this case I am relieved she could ask for help and that I could help her deal with the situation and stop it happening again. Henderson, Auld & Johnson (2014) stated that “the ethical issues are largely founded on the understanding that both students and teachers have lifeworlds outside of school that are characterized by complex identities, social practices, and discourse that influence how they engage or disengage with each other and with social media texts such as Facebook” (p.2)

There is a real chance of opening oneself up to cyber attacks from parents and or students by having a Teacher Facebook page – but the odds are already there regardless. A website called ‘Rate my teacher’ came into action some 10 or so years ago – actively promoting rating education institutions and staff on a scale. Thankfully this particular site seems to have been revamped to give a more positive spin on teachers, it certainly wasn’t the case then. With the rise of social media platforms that give people a ‘faceless’ voice there will always be the possibility of cyber-bullying. Look at the amount of trolling that goes on with our own NZ celebrities. Polly Gillespie seems to put up with an awful lot of cyber attacks. So my ethics are firmly planted in the – we must educate our students arena. They need to know and understand that cyber bullying is just as bad as face-to-face. They need to know that there are REAL people on the other end of blogs, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts, Facebook accounts, Snapchats etc. Bullying should not be tolerated anywhere – not even in cyber space! Henderson et al (2014) stated that “when students are encouraged to examine and critique their use of social media, such as Facebook, when interacting with the teacher or with fellow students, they are being asked to behave, converse, share, and self-regulate in ways that are different to their already established practices” (p.6).
With the continuing rise of online gaming forums, which allow ‘conversations’ between strangers and the continuing, rise of social networks such as Snapchat and Instagram there is a real need to discuss ethics and cyber safety with our students. We have a duty to keep our students safe in school…why not in cyber space too. They need to learn the protocols of cyber safety as many of them are already online. We had an incident recently of a student being verbally abused by a number of other students on Instagram. According to the Ministry of Education & Netsafe (2015) nearly 45% of youth have been attacked online (p.11), I am guessing this number has probably grown, and this is only the percentage we KNOW ABOUT – what about the youth that say nothing, that tell no one, what’s that percentage?  

Should this be up to parents to monitor? Yes! Are we going to rely on all parents doing that? No. We are living in an age where students have devices everywhere – they WILL find a way to be online! It’s in their DNA! We need to teach the basics if nothing else, especially as devices are being used in the classroom – regardless of whether they are on social media sites or a locked in school hub…the option to be unsafe is still there. Our students ARE online. They ARE communicating in digital form. It’s the 21st Century. 
A great source of information for your classroom on Digital Citizenship is: - Lee Crockett & Andrew Churches - Education speakers and authors

Chaffey, D. (2016). Global Social Media Research Summary 2016. Retrieved from
Crockett, L., Churches, A., & Global Digital Citizen Team. (2016). The Global Digital Citizen. Retrieved from
Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of teaching with social media, 1–7.

Metcalf, E. (2016). Social Media Ethics. Retrieved from
Ministry of Education, & Netsafe. (2015). Digital Technology Safe and responsible Use in Schools.


  1. Hi Claire,

    What a fantastic post! I agree; our students are part and parcel of the 21st Century and being good digital citizens is an essential area of teaching now. I was talking to my students about what it means to be a good digital citizen, reminding them that their online persona is just as real as they are in "real world"! This has been evident in how Google Docs have been used at school - some children realised they could have a Google Hangout - which went a little "haywire"! We sat down with the students to remind them of their obligations under our BYOD and Internet use policy. Once they were fully aware of the consequences (both to themselves and others), we've had great online participation and supportive comments. I also think also, your link to Polly's Facebook page is a humbling reminder of just WHY we need to teach our students the importance of being savvy and kind online. :-)

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comments. I agree too about talking to students about the school policy. To me the digital citizenship aspect of teaching is ongoing, constant and should be talked about regularly. Media stories should be discussed...the children have to be aware of the effect words have when sent via the internet. Hangouts is another great example too! There are so many tools to support teachers with digital citizenship teaching, another great resource we used was the education Police Officer. That one works a treat! I am glad you agree and I love your line about teachign them to be savvy and kind online - oh so true!

  2. Hi Claire,
    this is such a hard topic to tackle - we need to teach students the basics of online safety, I totally agree. Most of the students in my class are online - (most of them have better phones that I do and a better data plan too, and they're only Year 4!) There are so many harmless looking apps that are fun but can have some really awful trolls on - Musically is becoming the big one in our class as it's so easy for kids to be nasty to each other if they don't have to look at the effect they are having.
    I often wonder how we can increase parent awareness too. It used to be that there was one computer in the living room and parents could easily monitor online activity but mobile devices are easily squirreled away by kids so parents generally have no idea what their kids are up to, or been subjected to. We tried to get parents to attend a Netsafe meeting at school but we only got a small handful of parents, many replied that their kids were better online than they were so they didn't feel they needed to 'help' in that way. The world just got a lot smaller for our children, bringing the nasties a little closer.

    1. Hi Michelle - great comment! This is exactly the bit I am worried about if we go BYOD - all the children that can go anywhere or do anything because they have 4G capabilities on their devices that then aren't covered by our N4L network. That's an app I haven't come across, but I see your problem. Have you done some 'scenarios' with the class? What would you do if...type things? I would also suggest getting the education Police Officer in. It is a really hard topic and one which we need to continually revisit all the time, it's not a one off lesson.
      The making parents aware is a really hard one and I have had the same problems in the past - even running child driven sessions fails to get enough traction from the parents who really need it. That, Michelle, you hit on the head there - it IS much harder for them to monitor now what's happening with all these devices everywhere - this is why we as educators must pick up the baton and run with it! Great line there too - the world DID in deed get smaller and the nasties closer - stranger danger takes on a whole new meaning.
      I have a poster in my class that i made called THINK before you post online - it says
      is it true
      is it helpful?
      is it inspiring?
      is it necessary?
      is it kind?
      I refer to it constantly - even in the non-digital context.

  3. Google+ responses and reply

    Dion Paxie
    I enjoyed reading your post Claire. You really caught my attention when you mentioned Polly Gillespie. It is funny how many people do troll online. Education around this is really important so if you can help your students well done. I really loved the link to Polly's Facebook page that was a nice touch. I admire that you have a page and that you stated your reasons for having it. I am not a Facebook user as there is something about Facebook I just don't like. I think it is the fact once it is posted it is difficult to remove. I have nothing to hide but I really want to keep my family life private even though I share so much with the children at school. Hopefully in the future they will install a delete function so teenagers can moderate their posts. I agree that teaching the basics is really important. I have spent a lot of time talking about how to be safe online and why. Making it relevant to what the children are doing gives it purpose. I love using the projector so all of the children can see me navigate through the pages as I search for content on the web. I promote any mistakes or issues as I am teaching so they can all see how they might problem solve if it happens to them.

    Helen Jenkins
    Hi Cheesy great blog. I can tell you enjoyed this topic as it has the feel of someone who does this for a living!! I support your assertions that in the 21st century cyber-safety needs to be taught in schools by teachers who are experienced in the medium. As you succinctly state, students are participating in online platforms of some kind whether parents are aware of it or not, and it is imperative they have access to some guidance for safety and help with issues as they arise. And they do arise! 😂

    Claire Cheeseman
    Dion Paxie thanks for the comments - I am glad you liked my addition of adding Polly's page. It makes me really sad when she talks about some the hateful things people say on her page. I was quite stunned to read some of the hateful comments a couple of weeks ago when the TV1's Breakfast crew started leaving - it's amazing how many people don't think that the written word can hurt just as much as the spoken word. Trolling is such a cowardly thing to do but is a fact of life and we need to teach the children of today how to deal with and cope with it. I too love using the TV connection with the children so we can discuss 'issues' that arise - not least the ads that say 'you've won' something - so many things online are sent to challenge and hurt our young folk.

    Thanks Helen Jenkins for your comments too - I am so glad you agree with me, I was slightly concerned about crossing the line - but eh? that's the name of the post right - ethics...
    It is so IMPERATIVE [great word] that we guide our youth as best we can - if our teaching helps ONE student deal with an issue or stops ONE student from saying something nasty online - then we are doing ok. It's an on going issue that we have to keep addressing.