Tag Archives: social media

Safe on Social

If you hadn’t worked out already, social media remains for the most part an unharnessed minefield where reputations or businesses can be ruined and children can be harmed emotionally, mentally and even physically when all goes to plan for bullies or predators. Same goes for grown-ups, as we’ve all seen or experience on our own community Facebook pages. Talk with anyone and you’ll no doubt hear stories of abuse, bullying and threats that have touched the lives of adults as much as children. But help is at hand amid the gloom, as Diary editor SCOTT PODMORE catches up with a true expert in the field of social media policy, Kirra Pendergast, the founder and managing director of accredited consulting group Safe on Social: www.safeonsocial.com

At a time we’re all trying to get our heads around the best way to move forward and manage this ‘new way of life’, organisations like SoS couldn’t have come along soon enough and Kirra explains her own horrible first-hand experience as a victim which inspired her mission to make things “safe on social”.

SP: Thanks for talking to the Diary, Kirra, please tell us what Safe on Social is all about?

KP: The socialisation of the web means that every photo uploaded, every post commented on and every video shared on social media has the potential to compromise an organisation’s security and destroy years of community goodwill.

SoS focuses on teaching people how to use social media with awareness. The team at Safe on Social “SoS” have translated decades of experience in information security, privacy, risk management and business consulting into the social media realm. By implement- ing tools and training to enable safe usage of social media, we 
help organisations to continue to engage and grow their online communities whilst minimising risk. We provide specialist, real world experience based training to educate staff, students and their parents on personal risk management when using social media.

Late in 2015 we were honoured to be one of the first companies in Australia to be accredited by the new Office of the Commissioner of Children’s eSafety for our work in schools across Australia. We are based near Byron Bay and travel nationally.

SP: You’re obviously passionate about this whole initiative/ business for a very good reason. Would you like to share your own experience in the social media space?

KP: Let’s just say that after 18 months of constant bullying online about my looks, my weight and everything else in between, I have some great primary research! I am also dealing with the fact that I was recently informed that my bully had been posting on Instagram that there is someone trolling them and my bully has made the ridiculous assumption that it is me! When I think it might actually be my bully trying to gain sympathy. We are seeing that a lot in high school: bullies setting up fake accounts and bullying themselves to gain sympathy and deflect their terrible behaviour.

Adult online bullying is very
real, people say to switch off but 
it is very, very difficult as people who care about you will continue to send screenshots with “have you seen this”, for example. The bullying brought me to my knees; 
I barely left the house. I was in a very dark place and it is very easy to see why people take their own lives. After a 22-year Information Technology career predominantly focused in Information Security, 
I had already spent the last eight years working in social media security, privacy and risk mostly with large government departments and healthcare. So during this time I decided to fight back and re-focused my eight-year experience in this space and founded Safe on Social. I decided to focus on educating students first and foremost, in an effort to change the culture in a generation. I am now working with 36 schools in NSW and Queensland, state, private and Catholic, and we have a suite of online tools available to them as well as face to face classes.

SP: Kirra, what do you believe are the main things people forget when it comes to social behaviour/common courtesy when tucked away behind the safety of keyboards?

KP: Common courtesy, respect and manners. My grandmother always used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Behind a keyboard there is very little accountability as the law is yet to catch up. I tried to take out a Personal Violence Protection Order when my bully repeatedly threatened me online and the judge refused, calling that facet that the threats were being made through social media “journalistic and vexatious”. I was being stalked and was very scared.

SP: That’s terrible. And no one is untouchable, would you say? It clearly can affect everyone from small children up to celebrities, businesses, sportsmen and every- day people?


KP: Correct. Everyone is vulnerable. I am seeing an enormous rise in anxiety issues in teens. There has been a phenomenal rise in students getting their parents to call the school and ask to excuse their child from public speaking, for example, as they suffer from anxiety. I could almost guarantee that this anxiety, in a lot of cases, is caused by the constant worry about being filmed on Snapchat or photographed while they are doing their speech and openly criticised on social media platforms by other students.

That is a real concern. Most schools try and ban smartphone usage in class but it still happens. Teachers are targets as well.

SP: OK then, for a school or business, in a nutshell what would you recommend as the bare essential requirements for social media policy and/or safety protocols?

KP: A robust social media policy is a must in small businesses. Most bigger businesses and government agencies have them, however, they are often out of date and need to be reviewed by an expert in the field. It protects them and their staff.

Schools should consider guidelines to support the state government policies in place to cover such things as contractors taking photos of students when they are on the campus and posting them and to make sure that staff and students really do understand what can and should not be shared on social media to respect the privacy of others and protect the wellbeing of students.

Ongoing education is key. Parents need to step up and realise that a teacher can not also be a parent. They bought their child a smartphone so they should take the responsibility to guide them in how they can and can’t use it. You wouldn’t hand your 13-year-old the keys to a car and let them drive down a busy highway without les- sons would you?

Parents should also stick to their guns and respect the fact that there are age restrictions on social media platforms for a reason. I see a load of kids under the age of 13 (the age requirement) on Instagram, for example. Parents think it is OK if they have their account set to private, always worried about people looking at their kids, but often forgetting they can’t monitor 24×7 what their kids are looking at. Take, for example, a 10-year-old girl who loves cats typing in #pussy on Instagram. Guess what she is going to see?

SP: Our own Warrandyte Facebook pages can be a complete disaster at times with some really hurtful and damaging content being posted. There’s an argument about freedom of speech, of course, but I’ve seen businesses almost get mauled to death and have talked to people who have been seriously affected. What are your thoughts?

KP: Freedom of speech is all well and good, but administrators of pages need to realise that in the eyes of the law they are considered the publisher of every comment on that page. So if someone is threatening or defaming someone in any comment or post – they are just as liable as the person who posted it.

SP: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the topic?

KP: One thing I really want to point out to your readers is that we post photos of our kids online all the time and then we complain that they don’t respect their own privacy. We have shared their photos of everything they are doing without their permission for years! No wonder they have no respect for privacy and massively over share everything they are doing online.

The horse has bolted – we cannot stop our children from using social media. Everyone under the age of 15 now has never known a world without social media. We need to catch up and realise that this is the primary communication channel for them. Their phone is their social brain and they can not manage their social life without it. We need to teach them how to use social media with awareness, respect their privacy and understand per- sonal risk.

We (safeonsocial.com) have a range of solutions that can help and is available to schools and through P&C associations where we donate a percentage of the cost back to the school for fundraising.

SP: Speaking of schools, I hear there’s been an interesting development regarding school holidays. Is it true social media may even affect your insurance claims when it comes to being robbed?

KP: Yes, believe it or not that’s correct. When you’re posting photos that clearly state you’re away you’re effectively advertising the fact that no one’s home and there- fore opens the door to be robbed. It’s likely that insurance companies could deny claims for break and enter if you’re not there. That’s a big one to think about, so if you want to post photos do it when you get home. The crooks can see from photo maps where you live on Instagram.

For more info visit the website www.safeonsocial.com

 

Social Injustice

Facebook is fabulous but it’s flawed. That’s the general consensus. One thing is certain, it touches the lives of most of the Warrandyte community for better or worse. In a special series, this is the first part of a conversation ‘we needed to have’ as editor Scott Podmore gets the ball rolling. We invite readers to write in with your views in a bid to make our own social media community a happier and less damaging space.

SOCIAL media (noun): websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. That’s a simple definition with a complicated reality. One I can’t fit onto this single page when it comes to how awed it can be and the distress it can cause.

Social media can be fantastic. We can stay connected with old friends, romances are sparked for the lonely, humane causes can achieve peaceful or inspiring outcomes. We can express ourselves. A great example of the positive power of social media is when Facebook and Twitter became invaluable tools for millions of people caught up in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake five years ago and lives were saved. We’ve even had our own terrific examples of community pages helping those in need, tracking down a lost pet, as a communication tool when bush res strike, or to even have a laugh at a family of alpacas trying to catch a bus!

But the sad truth? An evil lurks within, and don’t we know it.

We’ve all had moments on Face- book when emotions get the better of us. Over the coming months I’ll speak to experts (real ones) in social media about shining a light on the darkness. It’s designed to catch your attention in the hope we can all find a way to achieve a goal together: and that is to be a little kinder on Face- book. It’s about creating an awareness around a very important topic that’s affecting us in different ways.

We need to start in our own back- yard here in Warrandyte in taking responsibility for our children, families, neighbours, schools and businesses with regards to what we post. There must be an ethical teaching behind it all, so let’s tap into some

substance when it comes to being responsible for our comments and behaviour and what we’re teaching our kids in what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

Most of you reading this right now know exactly what’s triggered this. It’s the elephant in the cyber room, or rather, elephants. We’ve seen it on our own community social pages, including the Diary’s. Without digging up too much detail, one example is the disgraceful personal attacks on conscientious people trying to create a constructive page to “ x the bottleneck” at the Warrandyte Bridge. Yes, the line was blurred in a few certain areas on freedom of speech or what some may call healthy cyber debate, but the bare facts of disgusting, threatening behaviour are there for everyone to digest and feel sick about; if you have a conscience, that is. It wasn’t designed to be the mouthpiece of the community or offend anyone, but rather a platform to have a discussion with the aim of achieving a positive result for one and all.

There are plenty of others that most of us know of. Local food outlets have been tainted by immature or irresponsible comments (just ask Grand Hotel Warrandyte manager Peter Appleby how funny the breadgate issue was and you’ll be met with a furrowed brow), and another young girl (who won’t be named) was so traumatised by attacks on a community page she became so depressed she refuses to be seen in public. At 14, she’s undergoing counselling and she’s not in a good way. Read that again. She is 14 years old. It’s not about whether she should be able to handle the comments, either, it’s all about how it makes her feel and the fact is she’s not in a very unhealthy and sad mental and emotional state.

This isn’t about who’s right or wrong and social media will never be a perfect science. But it’s about creating a positive ripple effect in moving towards a healthier state of social media behaviour in our own community.

Facebook, in particular, has clearly become a breeding ground for hatred, where emotions can explode and serious flaws in human behaviour unravel. It’s become a platform that can cause incomprehensible emotional anguish and distress. Comments in the heat of the moment so hurtful friendships are ruined forever. Businesses damaged because of one little bad moment. Marriages breakdown. Even worse … paedophiles using it as a tool to groom. A child even lmed the act of committing suicide and posted it on social media to send a message to those who mentally tortured him. It doesn’t get any more serious than that, just in case you thought for a second this may be an insigni cant topic. What if that happened to your friend? Or your child?

Every action of yours contributes, for better or worse.

Social media is in its infancy, constantly evolving and while there are some incredibly clever, effective and socially responsible workshops, causes, books and policies being borne, ultimately we’re the ones who need to take responsibility and tone it down. So take a deep breath, Warrandyte. Cyber-bullying and a downright nasty spate of personal attacks are happening right here in our own backyard. It’s up to us to fix it and that starts by thinking before you post and simply showing a little bit of respect for our fellow man.

Let’s share some thoughts from our community page or group leaders who have seen it all so far.

Bambi Gordon, of the Warrandyte Business and Community Group, says “people should behave on Facebook as they would if they were in a ‘real world’ situation”.

“You wouldn’t, in a real life situation, listen into a conversation and when you hear something that you don’t agree with just jump in and tell the person ‘You’re an idiot’ – and yet it happens on Facebook. Social Media is a tool for people to communicate – and that needs to be done with respect. We won’t all agree with each other. Just look at some of the infrastructure and development issues around the greater Warrandyte community and the wide variety of passionately held views for and against.”

Warrandyte Second Hand Page creator Debi Slinger says there’s a serious responsibility that comes with running a social media page or group.

“With close to 4000 members and running for three years, the WSHP has never tolerated rude, disrespectful or bullying behavior,” she says. “We regard our members as part of our community, our family. When you buy and sell, you have to remember that you’ll probably see these people at the IGA, your son’s footy match, your daughter’s netball game or at a local social function.

Yet Debi admits the page has encountered the “ugliness”.

“Worst examples include people telling us to f— off because we don’t know what we’re doing, saying ‘I know where you live!’ to which I replied, ‘That’s great, come over and we can have a cuppa together’. I try to diffuse things with sarcasm, humour or use my law background to legal speak them into understanding what they’ve done.

“Being nice to someone should be the default position for people – if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online. Freedom of speech is one thing – online trolling is another.”

The ripple effect of Facebook negativity can quickly take hold of a person’s frame of mind, even when they are perfectly jovial without a harmful bone in their body like my friend Josh Langley, author of Turning Inside Out. He told me how he chose to go 30 days without Facebook because of how much it was affecting him.

“It was another stupid post on Facebook that tipped me over the edge,” he says. “I can’t actually remember exactly what it was, it could have been another ignorant racist ‘F- — off we’re full’ kind of comment from one of my FB Friends or it could have been some joke that had been doing the rounds for the past two years and someone had only just discovered and thought it was really funny or it could have been one of those thoroughly annoying bait click articles designed to get millions of likes with headlines such as ‘watch this baby do something incredible with a hammer drill, brought tears to my eyes, best thing you’ll see all year!’

“I could literally feel the anger and annoyance rising up from my feet and my whole body started to tremble with fury,” Josh points out.

“I had a love-hate relationship with social media and Facebook, especially. It pushed all my buttons and I would find myself getting angry at the stupidest things and I’d have to pull myself back from the brink of pounding the computer to death and say ‘hold on, this isn’t real’ and sit back and take a chill pill.

“While I never attacked anyone or posted nasty comments, my mind was full of not so nice thoughts about how stupid most of the content was and that people didn’t have a life. I soon realised I was the one who didn’t have a life and I needed to do something about it otherwise I was going to be bitter and twisted just because of another cat meme.”

Social media is here to stay, but in its current state is not healthy. We need to clean it up and that starts with each individual being mindful of their own social media etiquette. It’s time to lead the way.

I welcome letters to the editor for a mature discussion about how we can make it better. It’s time to throw the negative crap in the toilet and ush it and focus on positive, constructive ways we can all alter our behaviour and set some smart, effective policies in place. While I haven’t been able to include all the feedback I’ve already received, I appreciate it and thank those wholeheartedly for their contributions via email and Facebook so far.

NEXT MONTH

We talk to Kirra Pendergast of Safe On Social, a team of collaborating consultants with specific industry expertise and a focus on Social Media Security, Privacy and Risk Management solutions and training services.