Media release

Media release
Schools urged to recognise cybersafety risks
Privately-owned ICT devices, such as mobile phones, digital cameras, Ipods and memory
sticks, are beginning to cause concern in our schools, says an Internet safety expert.
Robert Minahan, from the Internet Safety Group NetSafe, will address delegates at the
New Zealand School Trustees Association Conference this week on the benefits and risks
posed by the newest advances in information and communications technology (ICT).
A key area of concern is the growing use of privately-owned ICT devices in schools, such
as cell phones, digital cameras and small portable storage drives like thumb drives, pen
drives and USB sticks.
Robert Minahan warns that schools need to be aware of how this technology can be used
and possibly abused by students.
“Schools need to be aware that if students plug their own devices into school networks
there is a possibility they could place malware or inappropriate or explicit material onto
the network. There are also concerns over possible breaches of copyright laws by
transferring music or images from one device to another.”
He says that students can also use personal technology like Ipods, gaming consoles and
cell phones to access the Internet.
“Many adults probably don’t know that most mid-range mobile phones are capable of
going online. There are also other devices that can connect to cyberspace very quickly.”
“Schools need to be aware of this technology and ensure that it is being used in a safe and
responsible manner” he says
NetSafe does not advocate banning privately-owned ICT devices in schools, instead it
advocates for education to use the technologies in a safe and responsible manner.
“It is vital that school leaders, such as trustees, keep up with young people and
technology. In many cases young people may have far greater knowledge of these new
devices, but as adults it is our responsibility to stay educated and empower our young
people to use technology wisely.”
2/Schools urged to recognise cybersafety risks
Robert Minahan says another major issue causing concern for schools is the misuse of
social networking websites like MySpace and Bebo.
“Young people are putting incredible amounts of information about themselves on these
sites – their photos, mobile phone numbers and even home numbers. In these situations
they are placing themselves at risk from people online who wish to harm them.”
He says another risk from these sites relates to issues of harassment. “While social
networking is a natural part of life for our teens, teenagers need to be made aware of the
risks associated with social networking sites.”
“NetSafe’s advice to schools is to educate students, to implement filtering software that
can keep inappropriate material off school networks, and to introduce clear school policy
on the use of such sites and all information communications technologies,” he says.
“Information and communication technology can bring tremendous benefits to our lives
and can enhance teaching and learning. The benefits mostly outweigh the risks, but the
important thing is that we teach our young people how to use this technology in a safe
and responsible manner.”
The NZSTA conference, which has the theme Strengthening governance – from good to
great, runs from July 6 to 8 at the Christchurch Convention Centre.
For more information contact 021 429 212