In Your I !

Student / Teacher
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Just the Facts, Ma'am

Whodunit Investigation Sheet

Instant Messaging Log

What's Up with That? Exercise Sheet


Surfing or Surveillance?

Techno-tonomy - What is Privacy?

The Law and Privacy


Privacy Textbook 

Other Resources



Look around you.  Most of the people in your classroom have an MSN account and a lot of them can be found on social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace.  If they’re like the majority of Canadian kids around your age, they spend two or three hours a day online: instant messaging with friends, doing homework, listening to music and generally hanging out.

There’s more privacy [on the Net]; you can talk about private stuff... When you’re on MSN no one else can hear you.  At school everyone can hear you.

(13 year old students in Edmonton)

Research tells us that kids like talking on the Net because it gives them more privacy.  After all, most moms don’t read MSN-speak (omg, r u 4 real?? wat do u meen??) 

But online communication isn’t the same thing as talking in your own room – even if you’re in your own room when you’re instant messaging.  Whenever you go online, someone can watch you.  Your computer logs your MSN chat, cookies record where you’ve been and what you’ve done there, invisible web beacons embedded in emails you receive track your comings and goings.

That doesn’t mean you should stop talking online.  What it does mean is that we need to start thinking about privacy differently.  We all know we say different things to different people.  That’s because privacy is one of the ways we manage our social identities – the different roles we play, like student, son or daughter, friend, volunteer, employee. Try talking to your boss or a police officer the same way you talk to your little sister – chances are, you’re not going to like what happens. 

Privacy is all tied up in our sense of identity and how we interact with other people.  We negotiate our privacy by revealing different things to different people in different circumstances.  But when we talk online, what we say can be taken out of context.  And that has consequences.

This lesson looks at what happens when Emma, a student at Elmvale High School, talks with her friends on MSN about their English teacher, Mr. Nickel.  But before we get there, we listen in on Emma as she waits for her mom to pick her up from school for a doctor’s appointment.  Your job is to take note of how Emma’s story changes slightly, depending on who she’s talking to (or, as Mr. Nickel would say, to whom she is talking).

Start by reading the handout Just the Facts Ma’am and then watch the various video clips on the Scenarios page.  Use the Whodunit Investigation Sheet to record what you learn.