September 13, 2011
by Arthur Hunter
By Tanya Glover
In today’s world our children have things that we never dreamed of having as children! The internet is wonderful in and of itself but social networking has been a main focus of the web since MySpace was created. It was all downhill from there as other companies decided to jump on the social networking bandwagon. Now the two largest social networking sites are Facebook and MySpace and boy do kids and teenagers love those sites! As a parent, I am fine with my children using their Facebook accounts. But, there are responsibilities that come with using such technologies and this is what your children must learn to be safe on social networking sites.
What Goes on the Internet Stays on the Internet
When we are teenagers we did very little deep thinking as to what the consequences of our present behaviors can mean to our future. The wrong thing posted online can haunt you forever. Every comment, every picture, every behavior-good and bad, stays etched in stone on the World Wide Web. This is something that must be driven home to your children. Of course though they will think you are overreacting and have no clue what you are talking about. After all, we are just parents so what do we know? We were never teenager’s right? I remember thinking that about my parents as a teenager and now I can look back and understand that they did know what they were talking about and most of it was right on the money, although I did not see it at the time. Here are the things that your teen needs to understand about the consequences of their actions dealing with social networking.
ØDo not post any pictures that you would not want your parents, teachers, grandparents, or church clergy to see. If they would find it questionable then so would others.
ØWatch the language you use on your Facebook or other social networking site. Again, if you would not be proud to show others this language then you do not want it on your page.
ØDo not talk about behaviors that you know are harmful, illegal, or dangerous.
ØDo not gossip, pick on, or otherwise slander others on your page or anyone else’s.
ØDo not pick fights, threaten, or allow yourself to be baited into an altercation online.
You Never Know Who is Checking on You
These are not just a random list of no-no’s. Each one has a reason behind it and most of it has to do with your child’s future and what it will become. In today’s technological society, there are many people who will examine ones Facebook or MySpace page. This is done for many reasons.
If you’re teen plans on being college bound, once his or her application is received they are going to be examined and investigated. One of the first things that colleges do today is look up the applicants social networking pages. If when they go to their page and see a picture of your child in sexual poses or engaging in drinking or drugs then that application will go in the denied pile. Even if your teen has had these pictures removed, they are still there somewhere! Again, just because you delete it does not mean it is gone. The internet saves everything you do.
As with colleges, many employers want to see your social networking sites too. They feel that they can get to know one’s character better by doing this. If they see questionable pictures, comments, or behaviors on the page then the probability of getting that job is almost zero. Employers tend to dig deep in order to find the best and most reputable employees for their company. Someone who curses and insults others or posts pictures of themselves drinking and partying will not make the cut.
Big Brother is Watching
Well-maybe not Big Brother but close enough. Officers and other government officials do keep watch on social networking sites. If someone is using these sites to threaten, abuse, bully, or otherwise mistreat someone else then they can be looking at a very serious situation. Communicating threats is a crime in every state and by doing so in a public forum you are opening up yourself for some big time trouble. Again, you can delete your comments but they ARE STILL THERE.
Over the past few years there have been several cases where, due to activity on social networking sites, teenagers have committed suicide. What is the cause of this drastic action? Typically it is because someone has bullied them on a social networking site where other outsiders have joined in until the teen was so overwhelmed by the attacks that they take their own lives. To find out who played a role in the death of the teen, law enforcement uses proof found on the social networking sites. Each person who verbally attacked or threatened the victim can be held responsible for the suicide. While I am sure that those involved never meant for the victim to take their own life, they did play a part and legally speaking, often must pay the price for that.
Another case of harm done due to social networking deals with a college professor, a student, and an internship director. The college student applied for an internship with a prestigious company and the sole reason she was awarded the position was because of the glowing letter of recommendation her college professor wrote for her. Once she began the internship the employer came across her Facebook and was furious with the professor who recommended her so highly. On her page were pictures of her in engaged in sexual behavior, heavy drinking, and drug use. The professor’s only excuse was that the girl he knew was a nice and studious person and he had never thought to look at her Facebook page. The girl lost her internship position and the professor lost his credibility with the employing company.
It is clear why you should stress responsible and respectful behavior to your children and teens when it comes to what they post on the internet. Something you did when you were 16 can, and often times does, have a profound effect on the things you do in the future. For a young person it may seem like a small issue but if they do not grasp this information now, by the time they do realize you were correct it may just be too late. As a parent you have a right to know what your child is doing online. Make it a rule that you will have to know all their passwords so you can check on what they are doing whenever you feel the need to do so. If you find something that is contrary to the responsibilities you have explained to them then you may have to go over the list again or maybe even take their computer privileges for a set amount of time. For repeat offenses it may be necessary to have their social networking sites deleted until you feel they are able to use them responsibly. You must do whatever it takes and they may be angry with you at the moment, but in the future they will thank you for being such vigilant parents and for protecting them from themselves.
Arthur Hunter is a computer programmer and co-founder of Theravive. He has been in the tech industry for over 20 years, with multiple Microsoft certifications. He has a love and passion for the intersection of technology and mental health and how the gadgets we use and the time we spend on them play a part in our mental well being, for better or worse. Together with his wife in 2007 they founded Theravive, which currently has thousands of licensed therapists and psychologists. He enjoys writing on occasion, reporting on mental health and technology. You can reach Arthur at 360-350-8627 or write him at webadmin - at - theravive.com.