Our current world of advanced technology includes numerous social media platforms, and our students are utilizing these amazing – yet potentially dangerous – methods of communicating on a daily basis. It is our responsibility as educators and parents to do everything we can to ensure that our students truly understand the responsibilities they are taking on, and the possible negative ramifications that can occur, when they use these social media platforms to send a message or share their thoughts or photographs.
There is not enough time or space here to explore ALL of the social media applications and platforms available and utilized. What is important for all of us to remember about those applications and platforms is that the precautions are, for the most part, universal and those precautions are what we need to focus on when we talk to our children and teens.
Here are some general social media guidelines:
·Check Privacy Settings: the default settings on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide the most public exposure. By changing the privacy settings, you can help limit who sees what.
·Be Cautious of “Friend” Requests: only accept these requests from people you know.
·Think Before You Post: limit personal contact in profiles and posts and NEVER post address or phone numbers. In short, keep private information private. If you want to share personal information with a friend, call or text them directly.
·Avoid Using Location Services: disable location services on the apps when posting. No one needs to know where you are and when you are there.
·Beware of Vacation Postings: people will know no one is home.
·Never Agree to Meet an Online “Friend” Off Line: online friends can be potential predators.
One of the newer – and most popular – social media apps is Snapchat. It ispredicated on the premise that what is shared “disappears” in ten seconds. While it is true that what is shared disappears from that platform, what is also true is that nothing is ever completely gone once shared, and this is often a hard concept for people, particularly our teens, to understand. Anyone who sees what was shared can save it as a screenshot if the receiver acts quickly enough. And then those photos can go anywhere, via texting or other social media postings or recreations. Further, forensic experts can (and have numerous times) recovereddata from a cell phone even after images have been deleted. There is legitimate concern among educators and parents that some teens are using the app for “sexting,” (sending sexually suggestive photos and/or nude photos), and our children need to be reminded that this simply is not OK and potentially very dangerous.
The most important thing we can do is to talk to our children about the possible pitfalls of their social media use. One way you can help them gauge appropriateness is this quick test: if you wouldn’t want a college recruiter or potential employer to see what you are sharing, don’t share it.