Terms of Use: Who actually cares? (secondary)

Terms of use, who actually cares?  Well from my experience, and this is a personal generalisation, not many people, and in particular, not many students! Why? I think students are aware that they exists,  they have a general understanding that they are codes of conduct or rules which, when clicking ‘I accept’, they are declaring that they agree to adhere to the conditions. If they do not agree to the terms, they are not authorised to use any of the services.

So why don’t students understand Terms of Use? Quite frankly, they are not only too complicated, they are too long winded for students to bother reading. Consider Instagram, Dunja Djudjic (2017) wrote an online article called,  ‘A lawyer rewrites Instagram’s Terms and Conditions so Children can Understand them’ in which she referred to the Children’s Commissioner, who did a test “to see how well the kids understand their rights in relation to social media. They gave them 5000 words of Instagram’s Terms and Conditions to read. And these were some of the reactions:

“Boring! It doesn’t make any sense.” (Amy, 13)
“You have to take about 10 minutes on each sentence” (Alex, 13)
“Do we have to read the whole thing? We’re not taking it in, we’re just reading the sentences. You could have, like, toned it down for us.” (Alex, 13) “(source).

Try it with your students. Place students in small groups, and ask them to brainstorm what they think the terms and conditions are for Instagram. Then, give them a 5 minute time limit to read the Terms of Use by following this LINK and report back to the class. Note, as students won’t have access to social media at school, you may need to copy the Terms of Use into a word document for them to access. Ironically, a breach of copy right but how can you get them to explore the terms without having access to them? Then, follow this link to Dunja’s (2017) article for the Terms of Use explained for students.

I then like share two stories about my son’s experience with Instagram. With his permission, I am able to share them with students. I won’t go into all the detail, however, the first story occurred when he was 11 or  12. He came home from school and asked me if he could have an Instagram account. I remember replying with, ‘Not now, I’m busy, I’ll look into it for you’. Well I didn’t, and I recall him asking another two or so times. Then I received an alert on my iPad to his Instagram account. “Get here,” I yelled.

He came out and I asked him if he thought I was an idiot, one of those silly questions parents ask their children when they obviously can’t answer with a yes. To cut the long story short, he had created his own Instagram account because he was being teased at school by his friends for not having one. I checked his account, he hadn’t set the privacy settings and he already at around 300 followers! Yes, you read correctly. I started to go through the list of his followers and he barely knew any of them.

Then we looked at what he’d been posting. He’d been posting pictures of himself and friends. Sounds harmless, but he is a squad swimmer and he and his friends were all photographed in  their bathers. It was innocent for him, but the amount of adults and unknown adult followers he had was creepy.

I taught him how to set his privacy settings, we then came up with an agreement of what he could and couldn’t post (ie no photos of himself nor friends) and his father and my sister followed him. I didn’t, as I didn’t use, nor do I still use, any form of social media (except for Pinterest) .

The second story, and again I’ll keep it brief was when my husband received an Instagram post by my son, of a woman with her breasts exposed. He immediately phoned our son’s swimming coach, as my son was meant to be at swimming and asked if he was there. The coach confirmed that he was there and in the pool. My son’s Instagram account had been hacked. My husband was relieved, my son was embarrassed as his followers received the image but my husband sorted it out for him. His account got hacked a second time, so he left it and moved on. Now, he’s older, wiser and using Snapchat, wisely I hope.

You can also investigate the Terms and Use of Snapchat for example by following this LINK. Note, the word ‘shit’ is used in the article link, you may like to create your own modified version of this.

Original source location of Dunja’s (2017) article was from the Digital Technologies Hub.

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