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Fact Sheet for Learners

Every day people are hurt or injured in car accidents. But cars are not dangerous - it’s the people who drive them that make them dangerous. Driving safely means knowing how cars work, following the rules of the road and being sensible and mature.

Using information and communication technology, often called ICTs, is very similar. There are many good things about using cellphones, computers and social networking. Most people find them fun and interesting. Teachers and parents want you to be able to use ICTs. But unfortunately, like driving a car, there are risks that go with using the technology. If you know how ICTs work and you follow the rules and use your head, you will be safe and in control, and the ICTs won’t control you or hurt you.

Here are a few simple rules and guidelines you should follow. Mostly they are the same rules for ‘real life’ – no bullying or sexual harassment, don’t give out personal information to strangers or meet with them, and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want your family or friends to know about.

Don’t give out personal information such as your full name, e-mail address, phone numbers, home address, photos of yourself or friends or school name – either to people you are chatting with online or by posting them online where other people can see them. You don’t want strangers knowing everything about you. Never give anyone, even friends, your passwords, MXit PIN number etc.

Don’t give out any information about your friends– except to your parents or guardians. Keep your phone safe with you and make sure you always have airtime. Don’t lend your cellphone to people you don’t know well and trust.

Never arrange to meet with someone in real life who you have only met online.You don’t know who they really are. If you really want to meet them, then ask your parent/ guardian’s permission and ask an adult you know well to go with you. Never invite anyone you don’t really know well into your home.

Don’t confuse real friends with online friends.They are very different. Online friends might not even be who they say they are. Try to mainly have contact with people you know in real life. Try to keep your contact/ buddy/ friends list short. Be fussy about who your online friends are. Having hundreds of online friends doesn’t make you a more popular person, just a more available person.

  • The school must develop a firm policy on the use of ICTs such as cell phones. It must have rules that are sensible, practical and enforceable. Have rules about cell phone use both in and out of school. For example, if students are caught cyberbullying or viewing pornography they should be dealt with the same way they would be disciplined if they were caught doing these in real life, including off school grounds. Make parents aware of the rules.
  • Teachers can use resource such as the Understanding ICTS fact sheet to understand how cell phones, computers and social network sites like MXit work.
  • Install social network sites, such as Facebook and MXit, on your own phone and computer, and learn how to use them. You will probably find it is not as difficult or unsafe as you think!
  • Encourage your students to use ICTs both confidently and safely and to see ICTs as something positive that they can control. Don’t give the impression that ICTs are something complicated, dangerous and scary. Possibly one staff member could be responsible for promoting the safe use of technology for example, by holding student quizzes and keeping teachers informed of developments.
  • Teach Internet safety and responsible behaviour using ICTs the same way you would teach your students about for example, bullying, and dealing with strangers and sexism. Essentially the same values and principles are involved. Discuss risks with your students so that they know the rules aren’t because you don’t trust them, but because you don’t trust other people, similar to general rules for example, about dangerous behaviour, bullying or sexual harassment.