Being Safe in the new Zoom Culture

Being Safe in the new Zoom Culture

With the declaration of social isolation during these times of uncertainty, our lives continue moving forward despite the fact that many of us are subjected to our homes.  Thanks to the evolution of technology, the digital age has better prepared us to carry on with work and school regardless of what is happening on the outside.

As more schools and companies turn to social separation to prevent the spread of COVID-19, various systems are being used to maintain our “regular” lifestyles, from the  work environment to school settings, and even social interaction with friends and family. 

Leading us in these systems today is Zoom. 

What is Zoom?

A platform to connect people over video communication, Zoom is being used to provide remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. Each chat has the ability to record the conversation, share screens with other users and connect video or audio for the party to hear.

Only three ingredients are needed to enjoy this form of online bonding:

  •  Laptop, Cell Phone or Computer Device 
  •  Link to the correct meeting room.
  •  Meeting ID number (occasionally a password).  

With such easy access into these meeting “rooms,” and many more individuals accessing them, increased reports are surfacing regarding inappropriate content being shared, or inadvertently displayed.

Just as quickly as Zoom has become a household name, one term making internet waves is zoombombing. This is a form of internet trolling with uninvited guests screen-sharing pornography or other disturbing imagery.  Zoombombing typically only occurs if the creator of the meeting posts the details of the event publicly, or allows anyone within the chat to share their screen.

Outside of zoombombing, other user errors have caused consequences in the teleconferencing age.  For those not quite used to how this platform actually works, if you are sharing your screen with others, they can see everything within camera range.  This can turn an assumed professional environment into a hilarious home video where kids or spouses crash their parents’ teleconference calls, pretty quickly.  It can also be a grounds for quick embarrassment, or even criminal charges if not used appropriately.   Hopefully, you haven’t used the restroom in front of your colleagues or forgotten to mute your video or audio while sharing inappropriate comments about your peers, employer, or professor.  We are going to assume you aren’t engaging in other illegal or criminal activities in the home that could make your next zoom meeting turn a dark corner. 

But because our world is really good at using technology without understanding how it actually works, let’s dive into some Zoom Etiquette…

Just like most social settings, Zoom has a certain set of standards you should hold to when conducting business using this platform.

  • Sharing the Zoom- Let’s be real. We know your classroom zoom information is surfacing on social media. The creation of these posts has invited inappropriate behavior into a time that is supposed to be productive for all parties involved. Sharing is caring in most cases, but not this one. Educators and employers are doing their best to continue teaching curriculum or work with their employees.  The LAST thing they need is to be dealing with disruptive remarks or content or Zoombombers. This time may feel consequence-free, but this off-brand behavior will catch up to you.
  • Mute- The most important tool to familiarize yourself with while working with Zoom is the ability to mute your audio. Anytime you are not actively contributing to a discussion, hit the mute button. This can prevent you from potentially letting something slip that you wish your fellow employees didn’t hear. 
  • Video- Most hosts do not require you to be on video throughout the entire course of the meeting. The best advice is to keep the video function off, if acceptable, and cover your camera with a sticky note!   If you don’t have to invite your fellow classmates or colleagues directly into your home environment, don’t.  They really don’t need to see your basket of dirty laundry or that weird collection of dolls.   (Zoomer Tip: Video and Audio are two separate elements disabling one do not mean you are disabling the other.) 
  • Work Surface - Choose a table, desk, or countertop. Try to create a dedicated home workspace, with a flat table.  When in the classroom or the office, business is typically conducted behind a desk.  Because you are likely being asked to do similar activities in the home that you were before we were called to quarantine, we should be working to mimic those work or school behaviors that will be expected to be seen behind the screen.  The majority of school districts have made it a requirement for students to be at a flat surface, dressed appropriately, and following the same rules they would if they were in face-to-face attendance. Those rules should expand to anyone using Zoom to communicate, whether it be professional or personal. 
  • Background-  This may sound a bit nit-picky, but when a guest comes over to your home, most of us try to tidy.  If you are inviting zoom attendees into your home environment, treat it as such.  We realize students and parents are now doing everything in the home, and everything may look and feel truly chaotic.  But find a space in your home that you can maintain unless you want a screenshot circulating the internet before your zoom session is even over.  
  • Flat Surface-  Don’t treat a zoom meeting like facetime or Snapchat.  Keep your device leveled in front of you, preferably on a desk or counter of some kind. Your lap does not count. 
  • Bedroom- As tempting as it is to roll over in bed, turn on the Zoom five minutes before it begins, while still in your PJs - just don’t. Professionalism needs to be maintained even if it is only from the waist up. Working or learning from home is still a reflection of you and your work ethic. Save the footy pajamas for yourself.
  • Bathroom- Let’s not and say we did NOT.
  • Food- Even though your meeting may coincide with lunchtime, hold off on consuming anything edible until you’ve left the meeting. If your session was being held in person a majority of the time feasting on lunch may be seen as a sign of disrespect. Rules still apply behind a screen. Sorry, we don’t make the rules, we just try to help enforce them.  

Today's educators are overwhelmed.  Do not assume, despite the countless meetings they've attended over the summer and millions of different scenarios they have run through, that they are fully versed in all of the safety measures and tools on their online platforms and that they are going to teach your students how to safely engage in their online learning environments.  Many educators are accessing these platforms for the first time, or with limited training opportunities.  We can protect our children, and our teachers, by ensuring our students are prepared for a new way of learning online...    

Helping your kids understand the importance of security and online safety is an important life-long lesson. 

Don’t use the video conferencing chat option to send a private message. If you want to send a private message to another attendee, do so privately! In most cases, video conferencing sessions are being recorded so students, educators, or staff members can access them at a later date. Whoever "own's" the meeting room can access anything you might say, even if you've sent it "privately" 

Consider the impact of information or content shared or displayed. As with any social media platform or digital forum,  anything you type onto a video chat, say in a video conference meeting, or personally, the display can be recorded, by those leading the meeting, as well as those attending. You cannot control what happens to that content. Don’t share personally identifiable information, and strive to be as professional as possible. 

Turn off video and mute yourself when you don't need to be sharing. When attending remote learning activities or work meetings, mute yourself and turn off your video if you don't need them to be on. This prevents video conferencing software from recording other noises or conversations in the home by other family members or exposing information you did not intend to share.

Students should not be alone when engaging in video conferencing platforms. Schools should be asking for parental consent for video conferencing, especially if these courses are being recorded, and minors should not be creating their own video conferencing accounts. Ask your teacher if your student(s) can refrain from using and displaying their full name.

Keep in mind, this too will pass! Use Zoom as an opportunity to communicate and socially interact with your peers, educators, and coworkers. Maintaining a positive attitude and a professional stance during this time will help to boost your community’s morale.