With the few clicks on the keyboard, one’s thoughts and secrets can reach millions of people. A generation ago, society didn’t have to think about the perils and repercussions involved in the disseminations of thoughts and possibly provocative pictures to a great number of people, the majority of which are relative strangers. The world of social media continues to evolve, and with it comes the risk of oversharing. However, such actions are not relegated to just teens, as politicians in office, athletes, and entertainment stars have come under fire for their indiscretions which have gone viral throughout various social media outlets. Perhaps by educating the younger generation on the perils of oversharing, maybe they can lead by example, serving as a role model for others to follow.
Social Media Exposed
While there may be some valuable uses of social media outlets, often all it takes is a checkmark in a box, promising that the user is over the age of 13 in order to sign up for an account, with some parents even setting up accounts for their children on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instagram, and one of the more recent additions, Ask.fm. In 2011, nearly half of online teens admitted that they lied about their age in order to sign up for a social media account (Madden, 2013). While some sites have been more popular in the past, teens report that they stay on Facebook to engage in conversations with friends and family, but they are looking for other social media platforms, where their parents and other family members are not able to see everything they post.
Since teens are fleeing from the sites they and their families have in common, it is essential for parents to educate their children about the possible negative impact oversharing can have on their lives. In 2010, Consumer Reports revealed that over half of people utilizing a variety of social networking sites post risky information online, including full birthdays, addresses, phone numbers and their current location, all items which could risk identity theft or lead to physical harm at the hands of someone who has read the information and believes that they “know” the person. The same survey reported that over five million people experienced some sort of abuse on a social network site, which could be a possible side effect of oversharing while using these sites. Additionally, about a quarter of teen girls stated that they have been contacted by strangers and the interaction made them feel scared or uncomfortable (Madden, 2013).
Some individuals, including teens, do not realize the permanent nature of items that have been posted online, even after the posts or pictures have been deleted. The veil of privacy is quite thin, as it has come to light that several social networking, email, and search sites have revealed that they have engaged in spying on their clients. Likewise, all tweets that have been posted on Twitter are archived in the Library of Congress, with posts dating back to 2006 being able to be accessed by Members of Congress (Strutin, 2011).
However, it does appear that teens are becoming more aware of the way they use social media can shape their reputation, with more reporting that they are keeping their profiles “private,” deleting or editing something they posted in the past, deleting comments made by others, removing their names from photos, and even deactivating their profile on certain social networking sites. While these habits show an awareness of the impact that what they share online can have on their “real” lives, about a quarter of teens report that they have posted comments, photos, or videos that they later regret sharing (Madden, 2013).
While the desire to share with others may be a human trait, there are some events that do not need to be disseminated to the masses, particularly when it borders on oversharing. Some steps to take in order to prevent personal information from falling into the wrong hands include:
Share with real friends
● Don’t say something online that you wouldn’t say offline
● Turn off the location services on the mobile apps
● Be selective about instant sharing of apps that track your activity
● Regularly change passwords and be aware of profile settings
Regardless of the steps taken to prevent oversharing, one of the best pieces of advice is to maintain an open line of communication between parents and teens regarding the appropriate use of social media sites.
Consumer Reports (2010, May 4). Consumer Reports survey: Social network users post risky information. Retrieved from http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/05/consumer-reports-survey-social-network-users-post-risky-information/index.htm
Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, M. (2013). Teens, social media, and privacy. Retrieved from Pew Internet & American Life Project website: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-Social-Media-And-Privacy/Summary-of-Findings.aspx?view=all
Strutin, K. (2011). Social media and the vanishing points of ethical and constitutional boundaries. Pace Law Review, 31(1). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/plr/vol31/iss1/6
Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at - theravive.com.