Information Security awareness of high school students using social networks: a case study in Denton High School

Fieldnote 1

It was approximately 11AM on a Wednesday, and the hallways of Denton High School were relatively quiet, as class was currently in session. I was meeting with my first interviewee, a 9th grade African American student, in one corner of the cafeteria. The cafeteria was large and sounded hollow when it was not filled with students, but it was the best place to meet at the time scheduled. The cafeteria walls were filled with colorful signs of various sizes for the upcoming Homecoming dance and Homecoming court, posters advertising student council elections, and photos of alumni through the years. The school reminded me of my own high school in many ways. While I waited for the student, I spotted an authoritative male walk by, who was likely the principal. I looked out the window and the sun was gloriously shining.

The student arrived at approximately 11:03 AM and was wearing dark jeans, Toms, and a red short-sleeve v-neck top with minimal jewelry. Her hair was in a ponytail and she had very little makeup on. The student responded with “sorry I’m late” and sat down. I noticed right away that she seemed very interested in what I had to say and in the interview process. She shared a bit of background about herself, such as being the youngest of four children with two older brothers and one older sister. Her parents were still married and she had a close-knit family. Once I dug deeper into the more complex questions, the student became more enthusiastic and excited regarding the subject matter. She confided in me that she is a social network guru, used Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis, but her newly found favorite was Instagram. The student maintained good grades in spite of her “obsession” with technology, as she put it. She was happy to share information and provided a detailed response to each and every question that was asked of her. The interview lasted approximately 20 minutes and when it was finished, she shook my hand as we both stood up and then left the cafeteria.

Summary: This field experience began and ended on a high note because the student participant was very interested in the subject matter and in some ways, was an ideal candidate for the study. Her behavior was appropriate and she was engaging and very enthusiastic the entire time. Her attention throughout the interview was much appreciated. In terms of Internet security, she was aware that posting to Twitter or Facebook could pose a potential risk; therefore, she tried to be careful with what she posted and allowed others to see. In addition, when prompted, she changed her required passwords, but left other passwords alone when it was not necessary to change them.

Fieldnote 2

It was a rainy Friday afternoon at Denton High School at approximately 1:15 PM. Lunch in the cafeteria had just ended and I was scheduled to meet with a White 11th grade male at 1:20 PM. The cafeteria was abuzz with employees finishing up their cleaning and sweeping the floors. I was at a table near the front of the cafeteria and had a good view of the entire room. To my right, I noticed a few students trickle down the hallway. At 1:25, the student arrived for his interview and shook my hand. However, I barely heard him say hello to me. He did not make initial eye contact and appeared to be very shy and perhaps withdrawn. The student was wearing baggy black pants, black boots, a black t-shirt and had black spiky hair. Also, both of his ears were stretched and he wore several metal bracelets. The student’s appearance was reminiscent of the gothic style. As I asked him the set of questions that I had prepared, I noticed that his responses were relatively brief and did not provide a great deal of significant information to me that would be useful in the study. His responses were so brief that the interview lasted less than ten minutes. The student’s lack of responses and acknowledgement of his use of social networks could be important because it demonstrated apathy and lack of interest in the interview. Although the interview subject did not help my objectives. However, this circumstance does shed some light on the level of diversity that is observed in interview settings, including what works and what does not. To say I was truly enlightened by this non-interview is accurate because I realized how different teenagers are in different cultures. I had originally expected the student to provide me with important information for the study but I quickly realized that this student was not interested in what I had to say.

Summary: The male student that was interviewed was important to the study as a source of non-compliance and non-committal behavior, which may play a role in how social networks are perceived by other people. With this student, it appears that his lack of interest in the interview took precedence above the actual topic in question. Although the interview was unsuccessful, it did shed some light on how some students act and behave when they are required to perform a given task. Since the interview went very poorly, I did not get a real opportunity to ask him regarding his understanding of security and any security methods that he uses.

Fieldnote 3

It was cloudy Thursday morning and I was scheduled to meet with a senior Hispanic female at 9:30 AM. This interview was not conducted in the library, but rather, in the choir room. This room held risers and chairs for choir practices and random pictures of the chorus were on the walls. This room provided a quiet and reflective ambiance for this latest interview because no classes were scheduled at this time and the choir director was not in her office. I chose a seat near the risers and waited for the student to arrive. At approximately 9:35 the student arrived, found me in the corner, walked over and introduced herself. She was dressed in a pair of dark jeans, a grey ¾ sleeve top, and Converse sneakers. Her hair was down and she wore braces. She shook my hand and smiled at me. She shared some personal information regarding her family, as she is an only child to a single mother. She performs well in school and has a part-time job at the mall after school. With this third field experience, the student expressed that she was at an intermediate level with respect to social networking. She was aware of each network, used Facebook more frequently than Twitter and did not have an Instagram account. Her intermediate level of skill demonstrated that she was interested in social networking but had not taken the time that was necessary to familiarize herself with many of the applications that were available and how to use them safely and efficiently.

Summary: This student provided additional insight regarding a “middle of the road” approach to social networking. In the process of obtaining information regarding her networking preferences, I inquired regarding her level of knowledge of safety and security measures, and she did not appear to be comfortable with the topic. When asked about changing her passwords, she stated that she will change them “only when I have to.” This understanding of passwords demonstrates that her personal information may be at risk under some circumstances because it is not sufficiently protected against different types of risk. This was an important interview because I proposed that many students share similar views to this student and do not think about Internet security risks on a daily basis. Overall, this student appears to model other “typical” high school students and their general knowledge of Internet security.