Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What is "Catfishing"?

So, unless you were hibernating in a cave last week, you probably heard something about the Manti Te'o story.  It seems the All American linebacker for the Fighting Irish was taken in by something called a "Catfish" scheme.

In a nutshell, Te'o's "girlfriend", who supposedly died of leukemia in September, never existed...and was actually a dude from California, who orchestrated the whole hoax.  The story was broke by the sports blog Deadspin.com, and was soon being covered by all the major media outlets.

So, what does this have to do with education?  Well, not much so much with actual education and teaching...however the environment that our students exist in, is very different than any previous generation.

We live in the age of social media.  Nearly every High School student has a social media account of some kind or another (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, etc, etc...)  In fact, I would venture a guess that most students have MORE than 1 social media account.

So what is a "Catfish"?  According to the Urban Dictionary:  Catfish -catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Evidently, this behavior became more of a phenomenon, after a 2010 Documentary film was released. The success of the film, led to the producers being offered a television deal by MTV, which premiered this past November.

This is the reality of life that our students today are living in.  People are doing this sort of thing for "sport" or "fun".  It's not unusual behavior.

I think the important thing to do, is to make sure that children are educated in safe behavior in social media.  There are a number of good websites with articles and/or lists of ways to do this, such as this one from Common Sense Media.

Students in general, need to be aware, that people who contact them online, through the use of social media, MAY not be who they appear to be...and to not give out any personal information.

Teachers, talk to your students and make sure they know what safe online behavior is; and parents...talk to your children about their online activity.  Ask them who they are talking to...make sure that you are included in their list of "followers" or "friends" so you can see who they are communicating with publicly.  Be vigilant, and help our students/children as much as we can.

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