An article published yesterday on The Washington Post shines a light on the fact that most teenagers who use Instagram and other social media websites, are not aware of the Terms of Service (TOS) and have no idea to the extent they are relinquishing their privacy, or their own content. Jenny Afia, a privacy lawyer and partner at Schillings law firm in London says, “The situation is serious…Young people are unwittingly giving away personal information, with no real understanding of who is holding that information, where they are holding it and what they are going to do with it.” When Afia’s task force ran Instagram’s terms and conditions through a readability study, they found that it registered at a postgraduate reading level.
Afia was then tasked with rewriting Instagram’s TOS in plain English. She summed it all up into a single sentence:
“Don’t use anybody else’s account without their permission or try to find out their login details.”
The task force said the same message could be applied to most social media sites, but it focused on Instagram for its ubiquity and popularity among teenagers.
The article focuses on teenagers as a demographic, but I would venture to guess most people of all ages who use not only social media sites, but also apps and other services to which they must click to agree to a TOS, have no idea what they just agreed. To many, the “clickwrap” agreements are just an annoying barrier to getting to the goods. A single click, and you’re in!
For the average user, it’s not such a big deal I suppose. After all, if you don’t care about your own content, why should I? Unless of course, we are friends on Facebook and you start using an app that pulls in my information. (Check your FB privacy settings and be sure you pay special attention to “Apps Others Use” and uncheck all of the items.)
On the other hand, if you are a teacher and you are agreeing to some TOS on behalf of your students, then this becomes much more serious. Especially in US public schools, your students (and their parents), trust you to comply with FERPA at all times. So, when you open a class Twitter or Instagram account for example, and post student photos (i.e., student records), you are potentially making some decisions, and taking some risks, that go far beyond that which you do for basic educational purposes in your classroom.
Kudos to Tumblrfor adding hip language to its TOS to make it more readable.
How awesome would it be to have one resource that aggregates all the most popular web services and rewrites the TOS in plain English? If only… Oh wait, there’s TOSDR (Terms of Service Didn’t Read)! Pretty handy, indeed. In addition, rock star educator, blogger, and friend, Howard Martin, keeps a publicly available Google Doc for TOS for some popular Web 2.0 tools.
What to do?
1. Read all TOS when signing up for a new service and check back often, because almost all of them have a provision that says they can change their TOS at any time, and they don’t have to tell you.
2. If you are planning to post student records (photos, work samples, etc.), obtain explicit parental consent. This means those genericdirectory permission forms, typically found embedded in school registration forms, may not be enough. From FERPA website:
If student records are to be released…, the school or school system must obtain prior consent of the parent. Signed and dated written consent must: Specify the records that will be released; State the reason for releasing the records; and Identify the groups or individuals who will receive the records.
3. Check your school or district policies on releasing student records, and if you’re lucky enough to have a social media policy, read it carefully.
4. Understand that just because a service is free, doesn’t mean it’s OK to use. No matter how tempting, avoid uploading student names, IDs, and other personally identifying information until you’ve reviewed the service’s TOS and your district or school’s policies.
The other day , I had the privilege of attending a very good keynote by Garrison Wynn (@garrisonwynn). He was funny, high energy and made a lot of very good points about leadership. Nothing too original, but that's ok because there's not much new to say. There will always be a market for people like Garrison Wynn who can deliver these messages in engaging ways because there are too many leaders who haven't heard, or internalized, these messages in the first place, even though both the leaders and the messages have been around a long time. Garrison made a good point about how leaders must make sure the people around them FEEL they are being heard. He said, find out what people value and you'll know what you have to work with. He said lead by example and make others feel valuable.
The biggest take away for me was his point about being clear. He says clarity is the foundation of value and If you are easy to understand, you have more influence.
He says, most people believe if you can't simplify your message, you don't understand it well enough yourself. I am one of those people who firmly believes that. I've seen a big change in how people communicate over the last few years and you will probably start to notice it more after reading this. There's this trend towards more words, louder tone, and dominating the conversation, and … uptalk.
I'm not sure when it all began, but I started noticing it with sales people and vendors, and now I see those in leadership positions and even TV pundits are starting to show this odd behavior as well. They end their sentences with a rising inflection (also known as uptalk), signaling to others that they are not finished so they continue to speak. They speak at a rapid rate, jumping from one unfinished thought to another, often repeating themselves until they run out of steam.
Most people today are consumed with being right and telling people their stories, but not listening. Early in his presentation, Garrison made a point about how most people will go down in flames just to be right. They'd rather be right, than hear good ideas. They'd rather be right, than have change. They'd rather be right... and they will keep looking for ways to make sure they keep being right.
So, if you're in a position to affect change for others, here are some tips:
Need more help? Here's a great (free) resource for you:
Lee and Sachi LeFever from Commoncraft are very smart people who share their knowledge in really simple ways. They create extremely short videos that explain things in simple terms that anyone can understand. You may have seen some of their videos such as their 2 min. Twitter explanation or maybe their latest on Gamification.
If you like the way these concepts are explained in simple terms, you can now enroll in their free mini-course, Explainer's Secret Weapon. The course is offered in Common Craft Style - an engaging mix of words, short animated videos, original visuals, and an exercise to try yourself. There's even a downloadable guide to take with you.
Crossposted here on my other blog at Huffington Post.
When I do bring it up, I’m so surprised when I’m not met with an “OMG, yes! I get it!” Because I KNOW, my high achieving friends or coworkers are met with self-doubt more often than not. I see it in their behaviors. However, here’s the thing, most people don't talk about it. Part of the experience is that they're afraid they're going to be found out, and if you talk about it you are outing yourself.“The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” — Albert Einstein
When Clance and Imes first described the impostor syndrome, they thought it was unique to women. Since then, a variety of research on the topic has revealed that men, too, can have the unenviable experience of feeling like frauds.
Imes concluded that many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. I would venture to guess the “everyone gets a trophy” generation will grow up with its own brand of Imposter Syndrome.
How can it be that everyone is wonderful on the soccer field, gets equal playing time, all the time, but suddenly when turning 15 means learning the meaning of Pine-Time. No wonder these kids are Nervous Nellies always waiting for the other foot to drop.
I didn’t see a mention of work environment being a contributing factor, but I think there’s something to look into there. Passive aggressive comments made by “well-meaning” co-workers can needle their way into your head.
Some minority groups may be especially susceptible. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin surveyed ethnic-minority college students and found that Asian-Americans were more likely than African-Americans or Latino-Americans to experience impostor feelings. Most people experience some self-doubt when facing new challenges, but this is different. Even if they experience outward signs of success — getting into a selective graduate program, say, or acing test after test — they have trouble believing that they're worthy. Instead, they may chalk their success up to good luck.
I think it’s easier to understand if you think of an “imposter” as polar opposite of a narcissist. Where a narcissist would always attribute success to herself (whether earned or not), the imposter would attribute it to luck or timing.
What does it look like inside the mind of an Imposter? Take the following examples:
1. You lead a project at work to a successful completion. Your boss says to a large group, “Thank you to __insert your name __ for sort of taking this project and running with it.” (What’s “really” happening here? You’re a fraud, Girl! You didn’t really lead the project. You just sort of did it.)
2. Your work overtime, through the weekend, to get a job done. Your boss is aware of this. You make sure your boss has it first thing Monday morning. You know it’s done to perfection. No response from your boss. (“Reality” check: Not done to perfection, but he doesn’t want to tell you. In fact he’s probably handed it off to someone else to redo it. Fraud, Fraud, That’s you!)
3. It’s time for your yearly evaluation, and your boss gives you an outstanding rating on the standard measurement instrument everyone uses. He hands it to you to sign and says, “Good job this year.” That’s all he says. (What’s “really” happening here? He’s not giving you any feedback because you aren’t really so outstanding. Why would you think that anyway? You are a fraud, dear!)
4. Your friends tell you you’re being ridiculous and list all the reasons why you deserve your success. Some of them know you at work. (In your head: They are your friends, so of course they are going to tell you what you want to hear. Listen here, Fraud, they don’t really know all the ins and outs of what you do at work, so they don’t know how much of a fraud you really are. Keep telling them. Fraud!)
5. You’re nominated for an award. It requires you to write a brief essay explaining how you use technology in innovative ways for standards-based instruction. You think about all the amazing projects you’ve done with your students over the years and you start to write. Then you sit there staring at a blank screen. (You’re thinking: What I do isn’t really so special. Even with some lessons that were awesome, they just started out as small tweaks from lessons that were provided to us. In fact, someone will see that I didn’t create them from scratch. Thinking about one lesson in particular, even if I did add in a video conference with a scientist from another state, and a science experiment with digital probes, and every student blogged their science journals…I don’t know that anyone will really think those pieces are so special. FRAUD!) So you don’t apply for the award.
So, what to do? Epler recommends learning to outsmart your fears, really listening to those who tell you how you’ve changed their lives, meditation, and keeping at your work. I recommend reading her full post here. The American Psychology Association (APA) recommends talking to your mentors, recognizing your expertise, remembering what you do well, realizing no one is perfect, changing your thinking, and talking to someone who can help. Read more here.
I find, the older I get, the less this is an issue for me. I’ve learned to recognize where my strengths are, and where they are not. Let’s face it, I will never be a mathematician and I will always need help with Excel formulas. Thank goodness for Google.
I also acknowledge that just because something is not a strength of mine, does not make it a weakness.
I’ve made choices lately in my personal and professional life that I’m extremely proud of. If I were a true fraud, I would not have been able to successfully see those choices through. I know that now.
After reading a lot this summer, I also have come to realize that all who rise to leadership are not in a position to judge your worthiness. They may hold certain cards in your career deck, but that doesn’t mean you give them all your cards. I’ve learned that leadership comes in many forms and you don’t have to let someone else’s words resonate in your head if they don’t have value. The choice is always yours.
Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? Share your story in the comments.