I had a nice chat over Skype with Paul Schwan today, who is a fifth grade teacher in Fort Myers, Florida. This was only the third or fourth time I’ve had someone “skype me out of the blue” from my personal contact page, which lists my skype status (online/available or not) as well as a direct link to call me via Skype. You can use this link on the main Skype homepage to create links like this for ANY skype userid, not just your own:



My status

You must make several changes to your Skype preferences to permit your status to be shown on the web, and to permit anyone to Skype you from the web:

Changes for Skype "skype me" button

Paul asked me how to create a button like that, and I had to hunt around awhile on the Skype website to find the explanatory link. He also asked about the program I use to record Skype calls. I use Call Recorder by Ecamm network.

I was initially hesitant to create and share a direct Skype link on the web, but so far I have found it to be very useful. I don’t run Skype unless I’m willing to be interrupted in what I am doing. Generally I think it is a “skype best practice” to send an instant message to someone first before calling them, to ask if it’s a convenient time to talk. By default, Skype makes a new phone call when you double click someone in your contact list. In Skype preferences, you can change that setting so an instant messaging window is opened by default instead of making a call:

Change default Skype setting to chat instead of call

Sharing a Skype or other instant messaging address on a public website of any type, even a “private” profile page on MySpace or another social networking website, is NOT something a minor / young person should EVER do. The question of when it becomes “age appropriate” to share personal contact information on a public website is a VERY important one to consider. Certainly most educators can likely agree it’s not appropriate for a pre-teen to share personal contact info on a public site. But what about an older teen? When a young person becomes 18, does it become “ok” to share a cell phone number, skype ID, or other IM address online? When a young person goes to college? I don’t think so, but I also think this line between “young person” under the protective rules and guidelines of parents and an “adult” able to safely and appropriately share that type of contact information online is often grey and blurred. The conservative approach is the easiest one to justify by those concerned about safety and liability issues, but I think that “voice of conservatism” often becomes the “voice of the reactionary” who jumps to overly protective conclusions too often.

Can teens use social networking sites like MySpace safely, without sharing personal contact information? Absolutely. Will teens continue to make poor choices and “overshare” on the web? Sadly, I think the answer is “Without a doubt.”

When should a young person create a “skype button” and share it on a public website? I’m inclined to say after age 18, when they are afforded additional rights and responsibilities as a legal adult. Will the mere fact they have lived eighteen years on our planet afford them with the requisite knowledge and decision making skills to stay safe online? Not necessarily. This is why young people still need “us,” as more experienced adults, to help them learn to safely navigate virtual as well as face-to-face worlds. Adults may not have all the latest lingo and digital knowledge, but they DO have more experience with LIFE situations than young people, and likely a bit of wisdom they can share as well.

Anyone with a Skype account can create a public skype button. The availability of a communication capacity does not correlate to it being appropriate for every context, however.

On my public contact page, I’ve intentionally shared just my work phone number, my Skype ID, and an email alias I maintain with pobox.com. I do NOT share either of my cell phone numbers online. As far as I know, my other IM ids are not “out there” on the public web anywhere. I like the fact that Skype gives me direct control over people outside my contact list being able to reach me, so if at some point this becomes a problem I can remove the public link button and prohibit outside “public” access to me via skype.

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