Trust in education

Trust in the school context, especially around the use of technology.

Archive for the tag “internet safety”

Trusting that students will say something nice

The school that my children attend prides itself on its community “feel” and the character of its students.  On the whole I agree.

Happy students from another school.

      Happy students from another school

A couple of the most telling examples from over the years:

  • The applause that went on and on and on and on for the senior student who was given an award for having achieved despite difficult circumstances.  This student’s father had died during his senior year.
  •  The guest’s at my son’s 16th birthday party, sitting around a fire pit and singing.  A 16th birthday party could have been a lot worse…
  • The time I chanced upon a group of students on campus at the end of an open day.  Most visitors had left.  One of the students had his back to me and didn’t know I was nearing the group on my way out.  He was describing something which had happened and his description included some swearing. I don’t think the students recognised me as a current parent of the school and his comments were intended for his peers’ ears only.  The students who could see me gave him meaningful looks and he turned in some confusion and noticed me and realised that I had heard his words.  Maybe I should have been offended.  I don’t enjoy listening to “f words” but what had the most impact on me was the look on his face which clearly showed his disappointment in himself.  If he had said it in words, I don’t think he could have any more clearly expressed the sense that he had let down himself, his peers and his school.

I do understand why schools ban students from discussing or posting about school happenings on social media.  They fear for their reputations if a bad impression is given and we all know that a social media post can have a wide reach.

The trouble is that the good things happening often go unnoticed for fear of the bad things that might get too much notice.

Yesterday my daughter, along with her classmates, worked to put together birthing kits.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

She told me that she thought it was possibly the “coolest thing she had ever done”.  She was touched by having been able to do something which would help someone so directly.  I’m sure some of her friends felt the same.  Wouldn’t it have been cool if she could have snapchatted or Facebooked it.

The students’ characters, the school’s values and the cause they’re working for would all have got some great publicity.

If we teach digital citizenship, can we trust our students to say positive things?

Dig Cit 2





Dig cit

Photo credits:

Prinnie Stevens, Mahalia Barnes


Trusting your 9 year old to use Snapchat?

Seen recently on Facebook:

Just found out that my daughter has a Snapchat account? Apparently for about a year now!!! How did I not know this??? I knew about the Twitter, YouTube and Instagram but not Snapchat!!! Yep mother of the year!!

Should a 9 year old have Snapchat? Probably not.  Like most social media apps, Snapchat is not inherently good or bad.  It’s how it’s used that’s significant.

Snapchat posts "disappear" after 10 seconds

Snapchat posts “disappear” after 10 seconds

Snapchat has a bad reputation.  The idea of it is that you send a picture with or without an associated line of text to a “friend” or “friends”.  The picture only lasts on their screen for between 1 and 10 seconds and then it is gone unless the friend screenshots it.

Of course it’s not really gone as nothing on the internet is ever gone but it’s not easy to get your hands on a Snapchat once the 10 seconds is up.

The bad reputation comes from its early use as a sexting app.  Some people are perhaps more willing to send compromising photos of themselves if they think they are not permanent. No doubt it is still used by some for sexting but for others it’s just another means of communication.

According to one teenager I interviewed, the attraction is that it’s quick to compose and it doesn’t have to be perfectly crafted because its existence is fleeting.

Nobody’s going to go back and critique your camera angles or your word choice.

By photographing your expression, emotion is conveyed which may not be obvious from the use of words only.

A selection of Snapchats sent to and by one teenager

A selection of Snapchats sent to and by one teenager

As usual, it’s all about digital citizenship.  If Snapchat were banned, people would find another way to achieve their purpose, whether it’s sexting or sending silly faces.

It’s definitely hard for parents to keep up with the latest popular app.

What parents and teachers need to do is keep having conversations with young people who are old enough to make wise choices about who to “friend” or not to “friend” on social media and how to make good decisions about what they post.

Trust Story 3 (Student-Teacher)

Tom used to miss a lot of school, was often tired when he did come, sometimes didn’t smell too good, rarely completed his homework, had big holes in his socks and didn’t have strong social skills.  He had at times been the target of bullies.

One day he said to me, “Mrs K, you’re my favourite teacher”.  I replied, “Oh, I bet you say that to all your teachers”.  He responded “Well, yes I do but I like them all”.

This conversation was pretty early in the school year so it obviously doesn’t take long for Tom to decide that he likes his teacher.   It’s against the law of averages for Tom to have had an equally caring teacher every year of his school life so I think it’s his way of expressing that he trusts us and feels comfortable with us.  School is the predictable and reliable part of his life.

In Tom’s household there is a changing procession of inhabitants.  Not much is constant or predictable.  He is fed and clothed and given some attention but that’s about as far as it goes.

Every teacher has taught a Tom at some point in their career. Some have taught many Toms.  There are some schools where the entire student population is made up of Toms.

Out of sight

Difficult family dynamics often influence young people engaging in risky online behaviour.

Tom sometimes mentioned an M-rated movie that he had watched or game that he had played and also sometimes mentioned the early hour of the morning he had played or watched it.  At 10 he was still fairly innocent but I feared that as he got older, his online activity would continue to be largely unregulated.

Research on cyber-bullying

Cyber-bullying and risky online behaviours are some of the issues that get a lot of press when it comes to talking about children and their use of technology. Cyber-bullying and stalking certainly happen as do instances of young people accessing inappropriate content, and sharing and posting information and photos which should remain private.

However some research by the Berkman Center found that children who are most at risk online “often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies”.

Children who are helped by their families to develop healthy digital habits are not likely to be the ones who run into difficulties online.  It’s more likely to be the children like Tom.

Schools cannot change the dynamics of a student’s home life.  What a school can do is make school a safe place for all members of its community, a place where members feel trusted and able to trust, and do something to help children to develop those healthy digital habits.


Photo credit: <a href=””>Mark J P</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

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