The internet is a powerful machine. It’s almost like a car, that requires training and a license before you are allowed to drive. Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but I worry that young adults (preteens and teens) don’t realize the possible consequences for what they write on-line.
I think about the “what ifs” for hours sometimes before I hit publish on a blog. Do I really want to share this? What are the implications?
I don’t think our children have enough foresight to see how their quick comments or posts today could come back to haunt them tomorrow. Whether it’s college applications or job searches, whatever you put on the world-wide web, decision makers can find it, if they choose to look.
Both of my boys, ages 11 and 12 are on Facebook. Thankfully, I have a good friend who helps police what they say. A couple of times she has called to alert me of comments she feels could be misconstrued and considered inappropriate. I know she worries about being the so-called “bad guy” but I am so grateful that she takes the time to closely look at what they are writing and the context.
When we talk to our kids about it, we explain that although you didn’t intend for the comment to come off this way, here is how it could be perceived. They seem to get it. At least, we are having the dialogue.
Something else that came up just this week is, WHO is able to see what you are writing. I had the unpleasant experience of receiving a spam email from one of my son’s friends. Most adults realize it is spam and hit delete. However, the spam email went to dozens of students, mostly 5th through 7th graders, and they all had to reply to it. Those replies came directly to my inbox. A couple of those responses were really nasty.
Neither of the two boys who wrote those responses are my friends on Facebook. Needless to say, I still saw what they wrote. My initial reaction was to alert the principal at my son’s junior high and suggest the school help educate children how to be smarter about social media. My husband said “Isn’t that the parents job?”. I do agree parents need to reinforce and teach, but with social media being such a popular way for kids to connect, I feel it might be time schools also got involved. Maybe it’s a speaker who comes in once a year to talk to the student body. Much like the DARE program warns students about the dangers of taking drugs, I also think schools need to warn students about the dangers of sharing on websites like Facebook. Maybe schools are already doing this and I don’t even know it.
I realize some might say, your child shouldn’t even be on Facebook. That’s maybe why Facebook has age restrictions, that we all seem to be ignoring. But we just can’t ignore the fact that more and more children are engrossed with communicating with their friends on-line.
What do you think? Does your school do anything special? Do you think they should? Or is this fully a parent’s responsiblity?