For those of you that are not involved with any type of social networking site or are unaware of some of the current problems facing teens as they "chat" with "friends"... here are the basics that surround my concerns.
- Teens are getting on social networking websites and interacting with a variety of people, some are friends, some are enemies, some are complete strangers.
- Teens are sharing pictures of themselves (sometimes inappropriate) and these pictures can get them the wrong kind of attention from friends, strangers and future employers!
- Teens are not following basic safety guidelines to protect themselves from strangers which can lead to sexual assaults or online pornography.
- Teenagers are acting inappropriately by sharing naked, drunk, and other incriminating photos of themselves or friends, as well as speaking inappropriately. If a future employer, college admissions director, or other person interested in the teen, looked at their website they could find many reasons to doubt the integrity of the teenager.
- Use a Password that would not be easily detected/guessed.
- Use privacy settings...restrict access to people you really know!
- Think of a creative screen name that would make it hard for strangers to identify who you are and where you live.
- Do not trust anyone that you don't personally know.
- Do not post anything you wouldn't want your parents, principal, future employer, etc. to see.
- Don't write anything that you wouldn't say in front of a group of people. The computer is not a shield.
- Posts are forever! Anything you write now may be accessed later.
- Check what your "friends" write or post about you.
- Ask/have friends check what you are writing/posting about them.
- It's not an invasion of privacy if you are putting it out there for others to see!
I am concerned for teens because it seems that they are not truly listening to the guidelines being set or taking the risks seriously. It is important for parents, schools and other teens to educate these children about the possible risks and help them to truly understand the problems that can arise from a picture or discussion with friends. One of the best ways to do that is by talking with teens about real experiences that other teenagers have gone through as a result of inappropriate internet usage. This can be done through speaking engagements or searching the internet and news for recent events other teenagers have experienced and using every bad piece of news as a learning experience. It is so unfortunate that it comes down to that but we have to get through to these kids somehow. Any ideas???