Cross Post: Why don’t we teach kids to share content? @coetail #coetail


Image by the author

A few years ago, I remember another teacher saying to me that I didn’t care about privacy since I share so much stuff online. It is true I’m definitely a big believer in sharing. I’ve always maintained a class blog as well as a flickr and twitter account. The kids have also had their own individual blogs.

But here’s the thing, I don’t think you can really teach kids about privacy if you aren’t also teaching them how to share.

Many children and teenagers in particular have quite nuanced views on their own privacy because that’s been drummed into them very quickly by adults.

Don’t give other people your passwords, don’t upload inappropriate pictures, check your settings on your social media accounts, don’t give your address to people you don’t know in real life.

The advice is very much focused in on them as individuals taking control of who has access to their information. The problem is that often children aren’t so thoughtful when it comes to other people even when their actions come with the best of intentions.

A few years ago, a Year 7 child wrote a piece of persuasive writing to encourage a classmate to go to camp and published it to his blog. It was a great piece of writing and it was coming from a place of caring

However he had named the child not going.

We had a quick conversation about intent.

As soon as I asked him if the other child concerned would be ok with the story being out on the internet he quickly realised his error, he hadn’t thought about the effect of publishing the story from the other child’s perspective. He just thought camp would be awesome and really wanted his friend to go. A couple of edits later the general idea was there, but nobody had been named and shamed.

Would the same conversation have happened if the writing wasn’t being published to a wider audience?

The reality is that most students aren’t going to experience Star Wars kid level of viral cyberbullying. However if a student has more than one friend on snapchat, they have the the power to hurt and humiliate someone else through a share.

The focus purely on students as creators ignores that most of the time the kids are consumers and distributors of content which is where a significant part of the problem with cyberbullying really lies.

How many times have you:

  • Shared and viewing images designed to humiliate without thinking about the consent or feelings of the subject.
  • Sharing links to content without reading it properly.
  • Taking part in an internet meme without really thinking about the context.

I was dismayed at the number of teachers who were happy to capture and share their students doing the Harlem Shake. Yet the kids dancing who had no idea that Harlem was a place let alone what the people living there thought of the global phenomenon.

Likewise I’m not sure how many adults or kids really knew about why they were uploading, sharing and nominating people to take part in the ice bucket challenge. As Slate notes, most of the participants will have spent more money on the ice than on donations for the motor neurone disease.

As teachers we need to be just as mindful of what we bring into the classroom as what share out with the world.

The internet is participatory to be sure, but if we focus merely on protecting privacy at an individual level we are actually contributing to the problem of cyberbullying.

It is the sharing of content where the real damage occurs.

And it’s not just kids that are the problem here.

Earlier this year couple in an insurance office in New Zealand were having an affair. Images and a video were published and shared via social media. Both parties no longer work for the company and the wife of one of the participants found out about the image via Facebook. The bullying got so bad that one of the participants in the affair left the country.

But here’s the thing, it wasn’t the couple who had taken pictures and those images ended up in the wrong hands. It was actually people in a pub across the road who were capturing the images and uploading their images.

When the pub goers were broadcasting the scene were they thinking about the individual’s careers? The effect on their families?

Nah it was all just a cheap laugh with really very little ramifications for the people in the pub.

Yes affairs are wrong, and the participants should have thought about the effect of their actions on the people they love. But it worries how little public discourse was given to the people outside filming and sharing that particular moment to the world.

Alongside worrying about their own digital footprint getting kids to think about how they looking out for other people is just as important.

For book week one of the kids in my class dressed up as Captain underpants. I had taken an individual photo of each of the kids in the class and uploaded to the flickr account. Yet when it came to this particular child’s one the class and I had a conversation  with the class about what to do. We could

  • Crop the photo so that the child was covered up.
  • Upload the picture and use the privacy setting so that only we could see the image.
  • Not upload any of the individual images but email them through to the child’s parents so they could have a copy.
  • Delete the image.

In the end the class, the student and I decided to share a cropped photo on Flickr but the child also thought his parents would want a copy so I emailed to them.

The conversation was a lot more authentic and I modelled to the children that we have responsibilities not just as creators but as sharers of content as well. Most importantly the person in the photo was giving consent about what happened to the image.

It’s not just our own personal information we need to look out for and by learning how and what to share we can all contribute to a kinder, gentler and safer internet.

from Teaching the Teacher

2 thoughts on “Cross Post: Why don’t we teach kids to share content? @coetail #coetail

Add yours

  1. Hi, I am at GAFE Summit NZ, and we are learning about making our blogs bling. I am also a BT teacher originally from SA. I like your BLOG and way of thinking! Well done! Hopefully I can follow in your footsteps soon…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: