For an upcoming generation of digital natives, life online often blends seamlessly with the physical world. Conversations with friends flow freely between the classroom and the chatroom. An afternoon spent with classmates can just as easily mean meeting in an online gaming forum as at the movie theater.
To fully protect themselves, these young people must learn to navigate between two worlds.
Students at five Grand Cayman schools learned about safety online last week, including the potential real-world consequences of digital activities. Micho Schumann and Petri Basson of KPMG’s cybersecurity team shared online tips with hundreds of students from Cayman Academy, Wesleyan Christian Academy, Triple C School, St. Ignatius Catholic School and Clifton Hunter High School.
“The reason we’re doing this is that we want kids and teenagers to be careful what they share on the internet, be careful that they don’t have their social media accounts breached by using a weak password, for example. Often they will share too much information, which can come and haunt them later on in life,” Mr. Schumann said before a presentation at St. Ignatius.
“We don’t want to scare them too much,” he said. “The idea is that the internet is a fantastic tool. They just need to be careful of what they do at the same time.”
Bernadette Devlin, head teacher for Years 7-11 at St. Ignatius, said she has witnessed a problem with online bullying and students sharing potentially embarrassing – or at worst, illegal – images or messages.
“An argument gets out of hand and it then gets printed off and sent to me. They don’t realize they are calling the name of the school into disrepute in social media. If it gets sent to us, it results in disciplinary consequences for the kids in school,” Ms. Devlin said.
“The continual message for us is to try to get the kids to think twice. It can come back to haunt you. In most recent times, this issue with sharing images of themselves can lead to some very serious consequences.”
She said students may not realize the severity of sending certain messages. Provocative pictures shared between students can qualify as child pornography, for example.
“It’s frightening to us and parents at the school that students do this without any comprehension that relationships break up and it can get very, very difficult for kids,” she said.
Students should also be aware of the legal consequences of online bullying and be prepared to respond appropriately.
“They need to know that there is a law in the Cayman Islands where you can be charged with bullying somebody. You’re not allowed to harass somebody over the internet. You can get in trouble,” Mr. Schumann said.
During the presentations, students were advised not to engage with online bullies. Instead, they should block such individuals and report them to an adult.
St. Ignatius Year 6 teacher Suzanne Goodwin warned students that harassment online often damages confidence and creates stigma. She said online bullying can be hard for teachers to monitor, unless students come forward with copies of chats or screenshots of images.
Online safety tips for children and teens:
Create a passphrase – longer than a password – and do not repeat it across accounts. A Facebook passphrase like “MaryHadaLittleLamb1FB” could be adapted for Snapchat as “MaryHadaLittleLamb2SC.” Remember to keep passphrases private, except from parents. Avoid sequential letters and numbers, and given names.
Consult with a trusted adult before setting up social accounts. Make sure security and privacy settings are enabled.
Only accept friend requests from people you know. Be suspicious of requests from strangers. Never meet a stranger from the internet in real life.
Keep personal details private. Posting information, like where you live and study, on social media or in public chatrooms can help online predators target you.
Don’t engage online bullies. Report the activity to an adult, block the individual and do not share insulting posts with friends.
Create a password for your phone. Make sure a parent or caretaker knows the password.
Deactivate GPS and location services on phones. This information is embedded in photo data, which can be used to locate individuals.