Obviously, more has to be done to teach young people of the importance of protecting their privacy and respecting the privacy of others.  Like many other topical issues, it often falls on the teachers to provide such learning opportunities.  So what strategies can teachers discuss in the classroom?

Acceptable Use Policies

Student acceptable use of information technology policies do exist already, such as the NSW DET Online Communication Services:Acceptable Usage for School Students.  It is not enough that they exist: students need to be reminded of their responsibilities under these policies to protect their own privacy and respect the privacy of others (Forde & Stockley, 2009).

Protecting Individual Privacy

Young people need to be taught ways they can protect their privacy from others.

Strategies to discuss in the classroom include:

  1.  Keep videos/photographs of yourself private

Had "the Star Wars Kid" known that his video would end up online, he undoubtedly would not have left it lying around the school basement.
  • Keep images of yourself that you wouldn't want publicly displayed in a safe and secure place, such as a home computer or storage device that others can't access.  Sensitive images should not be kept on mobile phone cameras as they could be easily accessed by others.
  • Do not share sensitive images of yourself with others, even if they seem trustworthy at the time.  Relationships can change, and videos or photographs that were meant to be private often end up online as a form of revenge or spite.
  • Don't post videos/photographs online that you wouldn't want made public.  Even if you are only sharing them with friends, they have a way of being passed on or posted on public sites.
  • Don't share your passwords with anyone, not even your best friend!
2.  Control the images that others can take of you
  • If others are taking pictures or videos of you, you can ask them to stop, or tell them that they need to get your approval before posting them online or sharing them with others.  It is also possible to leave the area to prevent being video taped or photographed.

 3.  Monitor your public behaviour
  • Try not to put yourself in embarrassing situations, and be careful how you act in public.  It is always likely that someone will have a mobile phone camera on them, ready to take a picture if something interesting happens.

Reference: Protecting your online image: What we can learn from the Star Wars Kid

Respecting the Privacy of Others

The high school students who posted the video of the star wars kid probably never thought that their families would be sued for their actions.  
Tyler Clementi's roommate probably viewed his actions as a prank or a bit of gossip, and never thought they would have such devastating consequences. 

Young people need to be made aware of the legal repercussions and the ethical/moral issues surrounding the violation of the privacy of others (Forde & Stockley, 2009).

Legal Repercussions
Both cases show that cyber invasions of privacy, even by young people, can have legal repercussions whether in a civil suit, or charged with invasion of privacy

  • Discuss the cases or others like it in the classroom.  Make students aware of their legal obligations to obey privacy and harassment laws.

Alerting young people to this fact may make them think twice before uploading photographs or videos of others without their consent, sharing others personal information, or gossiping about others online. 

Ethical and Moral Issues
As well as the legal issues, the ethical and moral issues surrounding privacy need to be addressed in school.  Breaching the privacy of others stems from a fundamental lack of respect and empathy for others - an issue that is (or should be) dealt with in Values Education. 

Unfortunately, Values Education is not taught in Australian schools as much as or how it should be, and this lack is the source of many problems being faced in schools today. 

Within a values education framework, teachers can discuss strategies on how to respect other people's privacy online and think before they upload or post:
  • Treat others the way you would wish to be treated.  If you would not like something similar posted about you, don't post it about someone else.
  • Always ask permission before posting videos, photographs or comments about other people.  If they say no, don't do it!
  • Show empathy towards others.  How would you feel in a similar situation?
  • Take the higher road. Relationships can change or end.  You may feel hurt by what was said or done.  That does not mean you have the right to humiliate the other person, and in the long run it will not make you feel any better.  Two wrongs do not make a right.


Forde, L. & Stockley, R. (2009).  Techno nightmare: Legal issues for teachers and schools. Teacher, (202), 48-51.