Students and parents at John Knox Christian School in Oakville are more Internet-savvy after taking in an information workshop on Facebook.
“It was really excellent for our kids and probably a great idea for other Christian schools to know about,” says Jennifer Bergner, the elementary school’s director of communication.
“We want to be able to connect with our kids in the world that they exist in at the moment, and also we want our kids to be safe,” she says, noting the school is seeing social-cultural shifts such as electronic bullying.
The school had Chris Vollum, Social Media Trust founder, present two workshops about social media. One presentation was for students in Grades 6-8 and the other for parents.
Facebook is a global online social networking website. Users create their own profile page with information about themselves, and add friends who they can send messages to and view one another’s profiles.
Vollum says he goes into schools and companies to help people understand Facebook’s enormous influence that can affect people’s lives.
“The intention of the workshop is to acknowledge that Facebook is a driving force in society today that really influences for many of us of how we behave and how we act and the decisions that we make,” he tells the OACS News.
Vollum says he is an advocate for Facebook, and he provides people with tips for how to use the website in a responsible and safe way. Practically all students at the secondary school level are a Facebook user, and approximately 85 per cent of students in Grades 5-8 have an account, he says.
His No. 1 Facebook tip is being cautious of who a user allows on his or her friend list.
The average number of people on a Facebook user’s friend list at the secondary school level is 500, and Grade 5-8 students average 225.
The criteria that should be used before accepting someone as a Facebook friend is to ask whether you would trust this person alone in your home and with your most valuable information possessions, he says.
“That’s the big thing — is choosing your friends wisely.”
Vollum says his next tip is to look at the account’s privacy settings and recognize how much exposure you want on Facebook.
During the presentation Vollum goes live onto Facebook to his own profile page and shows his account settings and suggests users set their own privacy levels to be as high as possible.
He also lets people know that anything posted to your profile can been seen by anyone, including potential employers. Most employers now do an automatic Facebook check, he says, adding insurance companies look for information that may show fraudulent claims.
Vollum runs an evening session for parents, and says many parents feel angry and frustrated by how Facebook works and why it would allow such broad exposure of their child’s information. This reaction is somewhat alleviated when Vollum explains the different privacy settings, he says.
In the parent information session Vollum presents the risks and benefits to using Facebook.
The benefits include that Facebook is going to be one of the few mediums where people can communicate meaningfully, he says, adding already many student council events and university student union and admissions departments are using Facebook as a communication method.
“(Now that) they have all the tools, whether they use them? Thankfully I get a lot of feedback from students and administrators that students do come right into the office and say, ‘That guy talked a lot, I understood what he said (and) I went home and I checked my settings,’” says Vollum.
More than 40,000 students have seen Vollum’s Facebook 101 presentation in more than 13 school boards and independent schools in Ontario.
To learn more about Facebook and Vollum’s work, visit www.socialmediatrust.net.