'Malta needs social networking policy for teachers' - Vodafone

Vodafone’s global head of content standards says Malta needs a policy instructing teachers on their digital footprint and social networking to safeguard their career.

"Parents should be informed about what children can do on mobile phones when internet is involved" says Mullins.

Addressing staff and students from the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, Vodafone’s global head of content standards Annie Mullins said that technology and the internet had infiltrated all aspects of life but more protection was still required.

“There is a fine line between protecting children by setting restrictions while giving them privacy and space to express themselves freely,” Mullins said, discussing the challenges of children’s digital lives and how both children and educators had to be protected.

“There is a number of teachers and even healthcare professionals who have had to leave their profession due to carelessness or unawareness of what could happen should they simply add a student or ex-student to their Facebook profile or allow students to use certain technologies during class,” Mullins said.

“While sharing one’s experiences is healthy, even if we do it online, as educators we need to be very careful about how to comment about our students, our schools and the learning community. We need to remember that we are responsible for what we post on line and do our very best to avoid any negative, defamatory comments that may lead to any form of disciplinary or legal action against us,” the director-general of educational services, Micheline Sciberras, said.

Last year Sciberras released a teacher's circular on the use of social networking sites last year.

Mullins said that children can be cruel and unkind, with the result that teachers have been fired for what children have done to them on social media outlet.s "Schools should specify the type of technology that can be used in schools. We don’t want to inhibit anyone so a good policy is required. At the end of the day, bullying is bullying and will remain so, especially as it has made its way online,” Mullins stressed.

Mullins, who has worked alongside Google, Facebook and Microsoft, said child safety should be referred to as protecting a child's 'digital life': "The world has changed. We no longer refer to 'children's safety', because this creates an element of fear in parents. It should be termed as children's digital lives, which has to be protected."

Mullins said that while the internet and developing technologies were positively changing the world and increasing accessibility to developing countries, some people were still feeling overwhelmed by the rapid pace of the change.

“It was seen with the Homeric songs, the printing press and the Bible. When these things initially came about, people were scared of the change. The same can be said today with parents still feeling stunned by what their children can do with just a mobile phone,” Mullins said.

Mullins said that creating campaigns to stop children from doing certain things or abusing digital media was that children will always imitate their peers. “This is why we are directing most attention to parents and teachers. Children’s safety needs to be integrated into everyday life. Adults have the responsibility of managing children’s digital footprint which is a critical issue,” Mullins said.

Mullins emphasised the need to increase awareness of 'digital footprints' because people do not always understand that anything posted online could follow them from childhood to adulthood.

“Anything a child posts online will be recorded for as long as internet remains. Future employers will google potential employees before offering an interview. Educators must be aware that anything posted online could damage several reputations,” Mullins said to the education students.

Vodafone has launched its magazine ‘Digital Parenting’ in an attempt toincrease awareness and give parents and teachers the tools to help increase the safety in their children’s digital lives.

More information on Vodafone’s parent campaign can be found here.

More in National