Pupils to get advice about Facebook and social media sites

This week the Welsh government asked councils to allow pupils more access to social networking sites

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Pupils in Wales could soon get advice on avoiding the pitfalls of using social media and prevent damaging their future career prospects.

A pilot scheme will give tips on avoiding posting compromising or embarrassing photos on sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

It will include advice on protecting personal information and staying safe.

This week the Welsh government asked councils to allow pupils more access to social networking sites.

The pilot scheme is being run by the office of the information commissioner, a UK body which promotes data privacy as part of its role.

Start Quote

It's trying to make sure that they deal appropriately - that they don't give it away to the wrong people, that they keep it safe where it needs to be kept safe”

End Quote Anne Jones Assistant information commissioner

The move is about being more proactive, the commissioner's Welsh official says.

"We've had experience of cases where people have maybe applied for jobs and something they've done in their past or they've put up on Facebook has actually stopped them from getting that job," said Anne Jones, the assistant information commissioner.

"We all know that employers tend to search for these things online and it certainly has been happening and I'm sure it will happen again in the future."

In an interview with the BBC's Sunday Politics Wales programme, the assistant commissioner said that earlier pilot schemes in Shropshire and Cambridge were being extended to Wales.

One school will be chosen shortly to take part in a wider pilot scheme of 30 schools across the UK.

"There's a lot of reasons why we feel this is a really important project to take forward - to embed information rights into the curriculum," she said.

"It is that full package of information rights, it's understanding personal data - your personal information is valuable and, as far as children are concerned, explaining to them or trying to make sure them understand exactly what personal information is.

"It's trying to make sure that they deal appropriately - that they don't give it away to the wrong people, that they keep it safe where it needs to be kept safe," she added.

Positive view

Earlier this week the Welsh government called for local authorities to allow schools to offer pupils greater access to social networking websites on a supervised basis.

Anna Brychan, director of head teachers' union NAHT Cymru, warned that her members were concerned about the practical difficulties involved with the proposals despite their "great eagerness to make maximum use of new technologies in education".

But the Welsh government will now write to all local authorities in Wales to ask them to take a more positive view on the use of social networking in young people's education.

Ms Jones said that the Welsh government's stance complemented the work being undertaken by the information commissioner's office.

"It just sort of chimes with what we are trying to do, in that these things are good and positive... [and] we're all using them [social networking sites] aren't we?" she said.

"But the point is the fact that we need to use them safely, we need to use them properly and we're not giving out personal data to people who are completely inappropriate.

"So it ups the ante - if the children are going to be using it more in the schools then they need to do it properly."

The Sunday Politics with Andrew Neil and Carl Roberts is on BBC1 Wales at 11:00 GMT on Sunday, 10 March

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