by Phil Stott How many reports of people over-exposing themselves on social networking sites and then coming to regret it do we need to hear before we start thinking before posting or tweeting? Take the recent case of Washington Redskins linebacker Robert Henson venting his rage at "dim-wit" fans who booed their team as an example. Here's a guy who doesn't even make the starting line-up in the team, and yet he somehow feels like he's earned the right to attack the team's fans via Twitter when they show their displeasure with the Redskins' performance. As with all things social network-ish, he started out expressing his feelings to a few followers only to see his comments (52 tweets in all) passed around the internet like wildfire. Now, I don't much care about how the Redskins play, or the fate of Robert Henson, but what does interest me is how he seemed to forget-or more likely just didn't care-about airing his thoughts in a public format in the way he did. I know that, if I were to lose it like that and make similar comments either about my employer or our customers in such a public forum, I'd probably be embarking on a search for a new job in the not-too-distant future. Because I'm well aware of how powerful viral networking can be, I stay well away from discussing anything of the sort online (at least in a way that can be traced back to me!). Unfortunately, for those with kids that are old enough to be tech-savvy, it's not enough to look after how you're representing yourself digitally; you need to be aware of what your kids are up to online as well. I know one guy (an ex-cop) who regularly logs into his teenage daughter's Facebook page to see what she and her friends have been up to, or are planning (she has no idea he knows the password). I'm not recommending that anyone go that far, but it certainly doesn't hurt to sit down with your kids, lay some ground rules, and make sure they're aware of the bigger picture when using social networking sites. Here, then, are three things every kid should know: 1) If you don't want the "wrong" people to find out, don't put it on Twitter It's difficult to imagine that Henson didn't know that his comments could spread like wildfire across the Twittersphere. But if a more-or-less grown adult can make that kind of mistake, a tween or teen can too. So if they've got something negative (or embarrassing) they need to say about a teacher, classmate or acquaintance, tell them to do it the old-fashioned way: face-to-face. That way, the possibility of viral spreading is all but eliminated; all you have to worry about is someone recording you! 2) People aren't always who they say they are online Case in point: Lori Drew, better known as the Missouri mom who is accused of taking part in a bullying campaign on MySpace that drove a 13 year old girl to commit suicide. Having been acquitted of all charges of computer hacking (see the full story in the link above), it seems that there's little police can do to try and bring her to justice, as there's no statute in Missouri against cyber-bullying. While that case is an extreme one, it's also one that starkly underlines the dangers of kids being suckered into believing that the people they're talking to online are who they claim to be. Good rule of thumb: If you don't talk to them in real life, don't talk to them online. 3) Close your networks Sure, there's a certain thrill to putting your thoughts and personality out there in cyberspace for all to see. Not restricting profiles on social networks to only people you know and trust, however, greatly increases the chance of all of the previous things going wrong: people misrepresenting themselves, and you, cyber-stalking, bullying, the works. In fact, as parents, it may be worth making this-and the agreement that you get to check in on their accounts every once in a while-part of any bargain with a kid who wants to get involved in social networking.
- Survival Guide
- RAISING SAVVY KIDS