Keeping Safe at ACEC 2008

For me, one of the standout presentations at ACEC 2008 was that of Greg Gephart dealing with Emerging Trends with Internet Safety. This was in session that was deserving of keynote status, as it was a message that all teachers of students using computers, especially in the area of Web 2.0, should be listening to. Greg’s presentation covered an enormous range of topics and areas related to keeping safe online. The following is only a small snapshot of what I took to be major points of interest. Others listening will no doubt have highlighted a range of other equally significant aspects of his presentation. Having read a number of studies of the UK and the US, it was pleasing  to hear of information in the Australian context. The following is a summary of the points Greg made in his presentation.

  • Online Gaming was one of the surprise highlighted points of Greg’s presentation
    • whilst in itself, relatively harmless, games such as World of Warcraft bring with them a whole range of the demands especially on time. As playing times are booked in advance, there are pressures on played to keep to these times. The need to keep playing can mean that;
      • players will neglect to eat all quickly dash down meals, in order to get back to the game
      • homework can be neglected
      • and because players may be up well into the early hours of the morning, players can also face issues of fatigue and personal hygiene
    • younger players of primary school age could also face issues of inappropriate language when using these games.
  • Another issue that doesn’t get spoken of often in this area, is one that I have not really given much thought to and that is the issue of identity theft.  Through the use of popups, free games, free ringtones, 1 millionth visitor rewards, horospcopes and free iPod competitions and the like that require statement of a date of birth and often adddress it is easy to begin to build up a profile of a person that can then be used to set up false identity. Another way to collect data is through the use of chainmails which is a great way to harvest emails that if they are hotmail etc can easily be cross-checked to build a new identity. Criminals, most notably in Russia buy these identity for as little as $5 and then sit on them for X years before using the identity to set up credit accounts and the like. Greg related a couple of anecdotes, where young adults had sought to get credit ratings only to find that because the identity had been stolen and misused, the young adults involved had been given negative credit ratings.
  • Greg noted that mobile phones are the biggest source of cyberbullying in Australia yet most students have easy access to them. Other concerns with mobile phones relate to early teens and younger signing on for ringtones and not reading the terms and contents of contracts, which generally state that they are also signing on to get adult content. Having signed on to these, the children don’t want to tell their parents if such adult content appears because they  fear losing their phone. Another more recent phenomenon is students using mobile devices to connect with the wireless network of houses next to a school to access inappropriate or otherwise blocked Internet sites.
  • The need to be prudent with what you put on your social networks and the like is now quite well known and Greg presented a number of examples where users had been less than prudent. Greg noted that 25% of mining companies now use Facebook/My Space searches on prospective employees, and that 25% of US educational authorities now check prospective teachers MSpace. To back up his argument Greg cited a CNet Australia article titled Facebook, MySpace threaten your job, savings. He also pointed to the following YouTube video

  • The best way to guard against any future problems in this area is to remove flirty photos and nicknames from such sites including mobile phones and to also preferably remove any surnames as well. To complete the protection it is best to set such sites to private.
  • Speaking to the needs of younger students, Greg noted that sites such as whilst sites such as Club Penguin have mentors and that parents nominally have to give an email address that can be used to report back to them if their children are doing the wrong thing many kids complete the sign up process for themselves using hotmail accounts and the like which circumvents the whole parent feedback loop.
  • Greg warned of the need to be aware of false links to My Space URL’s and the like. Often these can appear on pages that otherwise look real even down to having ads that are inserted according to the IP address of the computer the user is using. Thus Australian users will see ads that would normally appear on Australian based sites. Once users add details to such false sites, (or even to open real sites), these details can then easily be harvested and put into White Pages online, Google maps such that a quite sophisticated and complete profile of the user can be assembled. Greg noted the instance of a Social Network user who otherwise harmlessly related that she lived in XXXX suburb and liked to take her dog for a walk every day at 7:30 to XXXX beach to play, all of which was written a longside a digital image of the girl, was giving out far too much information.
  • Greg then went on to stress the need to ensure that children who are experiencing bullying and other discomforture keep a copy of any such interactions in order to retrieve the date and time stamp attached to them. Once these have been established it can then be much easier to use this digital footprint to trace the originator of such material whether it be from SMS, emails, Youtube, Myspace or any other social networking site. He also noted that the help desk at My Space etc if informed of such material is usually very willing to remove offending content as it is in their interests as much as it is the victim.
  • In closing his presentation Greg pointed to the CyberSmart Guides available through CyberSmart kids Australia as well as the CyberSmart Teacher PD program that in 2009 aims to have an acreditted teachers in all schools, Australia wide. To register an interest in this program you can register at
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One Response to Keeping Safe at ACEC 2008

  1. Lucy says:

    What a FANTASTIC post and summary of Greg’s presentation! I agree John, it was certainly one of the highlights of ACEC08 for me. Thank you for this post, it will be a great one to share with staff.
    Lucy 🙂

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