‘Teachers are often just as clueless as students’

Have your say: We asked nine transition year student to share their views about online privacy


One of the greatest challenges faced by students is how to engage safely with the digital world. Issues relating to online privacy and safety concern students and parents alike and the dangers are well-known: ranging from identity theft, online predators to cyber-bullying and stalking. We asked nine transition year students to share their views on online privacy and whether or not the guidance they are given is effective.

Today’s world is instant. Instant meals, instant banking, and instant news. These are things that make our lives fast - we spend less time making meals, going to the bank and getting information - so we have more time to do more things. It is the internet that enables this fast living, giving us instant access to so many facets of daily life - but at what cost? We consent to cookies on nearly every website we visit and we give our details to every organisation that we deal with. This allows anyone with the technical capability to build a profile of us - one that started the very first time that we turned on our computers, laptops and phones. This colossal store of data was displayed for all to see in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. There are questions that need to be addressed - it is acceptable for companies to have all of this information? And, is there any way for us to regain sole possession of our personal details? It is clear that at the very least, we should be made aware of who has our data and make young people educated so that they can make conscious and well-informed decisions.

- Róisín Gallagher

Believe it or not, in today’s age, most teenagers still care about privacy. Almost all of us have some form of social media, yet we still lead very private lives - even those who post regularly. There is an unspoken rule when it comes to what teenagers post. Most of us use social media to share things that are positive in our lives - for example friends, wins and pictures where we think we look good. In my opinion, the problem for our generation is the fact that we are expected to post all these good things. There is always this pressure, this impossible standard of perfection to live up to. These standards are enforced by so-called influencers who profit from their posts. But this unspoken rule applies to them too. They only post pictures of themselves that look professional, that look perfect, thus enforcing the idea that their lives are perfect. The fact is our generation knows how to keep safe on the internet. We know how to control who sees our content, we know what to do if we encounter cyber-bullying. We’ve grown up on the internet and it’s nearly intuitive at this point.

- Laura Gallagher

You can never, ever, achieve privacy on a social media platform. Every picture you post of your new dress or your newborn baby is deeply analysed. It is literally torn apart to retain every single detail about you - from your nationality to your bedroom wall colour, everything is stored and added to your profile which they have created. Privacy is a term which is used very lightly. You think your Google searches are private, but they are anything but that. Not only are you being monitored every second but you are not being private at all. Some measures can be taken such as to stop spending so much time on your phone, use the incognito mode or other browsers such as DuckDuckGo, which offer complete privacy and steal absolutely no data.

- Arushi Singh

There is an option for a private setting on most social media platforms where only the people you accept can follow you and see your posts. Keeping your accounts private and accepting people you know can prevent unnecessary hardship. Choosing a username such as your nickname is an easy way not to give out your information but your friends will still recognise who you are. I think privacy should be discussed in SPHE classes. Advice should be given and not pushed onto students as this can make them less likely to take it onboard or consider it. They could believe you ar etrying to control them and it may affect how they see it as advice or an order. Teachers should discuss social media privacy with students and ask them questions on the topic such as “Have you had any issues you would like to discuss?” Peer pressure can affect people and it can affect the choices they make on social media. For instance, if someone notices that a lot of their friends’ accounts are set to public view, they could be inclined to change theirs to the same.

- Meadbh Bierney

People often overlook self-preservation and protection online. They fail to set up boundaries ensuring their right to privacy and it can result in bullying, identity theft and grooming. Those most targeted are often the most oblivious, naïve or vulnerable. Young people view social media platforms as a chance to become popular, they put themselves out there to be known - like their favourite celebrities. An over-romanticised and glamourised ideal is often blown out of proportion which can put them at great risk. Unknowingly they have put themselves out there exposing their whereabouts, what school they attend and other vital information. Schools need to address these issues in a way that actually reaches young people and will make them realise the true dangers of something they might otherwise view as non-threatening. It has never been more important to inform young people of the importance of privacy.

- Heather Price

There is no privacy on social media. You are tracked wherever you go online by cookies. There is no privacy with your pictures, information or data. Some people do not care if they are tracked without their consent yet might not share that same information with their family or friends. Many don’t believe the dangers because they don’t see physical proof. School should teach students how to be safe on social media and to know what or what not they are happy for the world to see.

- Lily McGuire

Social media is everywhere and you can find out anything in seconds. Many find this to be an advantage to our society and it is in many ways but it can also bring disadvantages. With technology as it is today, it can be hard not to spend hours on end online watching videos, scrolling through social media or texting friends. Because our generation spends so much time on their phones, people have found ways to take advantage of this. I have been lucky enough to have had speakers come into my school and tell me the dangers of the internet and it was very helpful to have had the opportunity to learn about it.

- Sophia Humphreys

I think adults could do more to protect the younger generation online. Schools should educate their students continuously and the Government should make more of an effort when it comes to online privacy - perhaps by bringing in more sanctions against online crime. Parents could do more to protect their children’s privacy as letting a child under 11 on social media is not a good idea as they are so vulnerable. I think parents should be stricter about this.

- Alex McGarry

Growing up surrounded by technology means many teenagers tend not to spare a second thought to our privacy online and what exactly companies are doing with our information. We are aware of cookies and how companies target advertisements at us, but the majority have never read or even glanced at the privacy policy for the apps they use. I myself am guilty of simply checking the box to say I agree and then never thinking about it again. Teenagers need to be encouraged to fully understand what they are agreeing to. Many of my friends are incredibly relaxed about their social media accounts and who can see their pictures or contact them. When I was younger, they would have their account set to private, having been warned by parents how anyone could see their photos. Now, however, many of them have set their accounts to public dismissing parents and teacher warnings as unnecessary and overly protective. They don’t realise that these warnings are very real. It is not uncommon for them to receive comments and messages from unknown accounts that are sometimes inappropriate in nature. They have no idea who is viewing their photos or what they are doing with them. Schools should be teaching us how to stay safe online. However, teachers are often just as clueless as students when it comes to best practice. How can we be protected online if we can’t understand what we are agreeing to? - Aoibh Collins