I frequently speak to students in junior high and high school and warn them about the effects of what they post online. I challenge them to ask themselves a series of very important questions regarding how their online presence can affect their reputation, what college they go to or what job they get. I tell them to be true to themselves and make sure that their online presence matches who they are in the "real world".
Sometimes I wonder if this message is hitting home.
It should come as no surprise, though, that young people are slow to take the advice of adults when it comes to this issue. Some adults have no filter when it comes to what they say or do online. Some adults are not setting the example that our young people desperately need. It is difficult to warn young people about certain online behavior such as sexting, harassment, cruelty or inappropriate pictures when they look at adults' profiles and see them involved in the very same type of behavior. I am challenging all you adults out there, especially parents, to think before you post and realize the influence you have on a young person's life, for better or for worse.
People tell me all the time "I think what you're doing is so important". And I agree with them. I believe it is very important that everyone, but especially young people, learn the proper and safe use of the internet. You can't turn on the TV, the radio or internet without coming across a story of someone, somewhere who did something to jeopardize their safety or reputation with something they posted online. With all of the online risks that both young and old are exposed to, one would think that every school, church and organization would grasp how utterly important it is to protect people online. Unfortunately, I have seen that even though we say it's important we often don't "put our money where our mouth is". If we as parents really, truly believe that our children need to be equipped with this information then we need to do our part in sharing it with our children and we need to let the schools our children attend know this as well.
For those of you who have a Facebook profile you are probably all too familiar with the negative stuff that people post. From beating up on the boss to trash talking about teachers, everyone seems to air their dirty laundry online. We all have difficult times and get frustrated but Facebook is not the place to post these feelings. Even though we may have freedom of speech, that doesn't give us the right to disregard the way we treat one another. In Ephesians Chapter 4, verses 29 and 31-32, Paul tell us "Do not let any unwholesome talks come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forving each other, just as Christ God forgave you". The next time you think about putting something on Facebook about someone you believed has wronged you, reflect on these verses and do as Jesus instructed us in Matthew Chapter 5, "Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that what, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven".
With recent changes to Facebook's privacy settings I felt prompted to write a little about online privacy. I won't make this long because what I have to say is pretty simple: You must assume that ANYTHING you put online could be seen by ANYONE at ANYTIME. Even if you post information or a photo behind a private profile or in an email to someone, you have to understand the risk you are taking. When you put that information or photo in the hands of another human being you are trusting that they won't share it with anyone else. How many times have you heard of a boy or a girl sending a nude or semi-nude photo to their girlfriend or boyfriend and it ends up being forwarded to numerous people? Think before you post! Ask yourself whether or not the post or photo is something you would be okay with seeing on a billboard along the highway. If not, it's probably best to leave it off the information superhighway.
After reading YourSphere's Mary Kay Hoal's article "How to Form Good Technology Habits Early", I decided to re-post one of my very first blogs concerning parental involvement. Here it is:
Whether we want to protect our children from online predators or from damaging their reputation, we need to open the lines of communication between us and our children. It seems to me that this is probably the simplest and most effective way to protect our children online. If we start at an early age by being involved in our children's online experience we can point them in the right direction and help them make wise choices about how they use the internet. We gain the added benefit of learning what our children our doing online and what sites they visit. It is important that we know what features these sites offer, what privacy is afforded, what information our children share on these sites and so on. We need to know what, and who, our children our being exposed to on these sites.
I hear far too often from parents that they don't know much about the internet and don't want to learn much about it either. We may not be that knowledgeable about the internet but we cannot use that as an excuse to let our children "run wild" online. Just as we would be involved in other aspects of your child's life (school, sports, church, etc.), we need to be involved in their online life. We must teach our children that safety rules in the real world should be followed online as well.
If your child wanted to go somewhere on the weekend, you would ask the following questions:
Where are you going? or What are you going to be doing?
Who are you going to be with?
How long will you be there?
We need to ask these same questions when they go online:
1. Where are you going? or What are you going to be doing? = What sites are you visiting? (MySpace, Facebook, Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms, Games, etc.)
2. Who are you going to be with? = Who do you talk to online? (Is it just people they know in real life or are they talking to anyone they happen to meet online?)
3. How long are you going to be there? = How long are you going to be online? (We need to set limits on how much time our children spend online)
Use the time you spend with your child online to talk with them about these and other concerns you may have. Just as you would teach your child "real world" safety, teach them how to stay safe online.
Here are some internet safety tips to consider:
1. Talk to your child about Internet safety concerns in a positive way and give them the opportunity to make safety resolutions that you can both live with. Set up agreements and guidelines about computer use.
2. Spend time online with your child and discuss their online experiences just as you would ask them about their day. Be open to learning about the technology so you can keep up with them.
3. If your child belongs to a social networking site (MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, etc.), look closely at what information they have posted in their member profiles and blogs, including photos and videos. Tell them why it’s important to keep information like their name, address, phone number and financial information to themselves. This information could be used to identity them or locate them offline.
4. Use privacy settings to restrict who can access your child’s website. Know who your child’s online friends are. Emphasize that they should only add people as friends if they know them in person. Discuss the risks associated with adding people they don’t know.
5. Your child should only post information that you – and they – are comfortable with others seeing. Remind your child that once they post information online it is there forever. Even if your child deletes their profile, older versions still exist on others’ computers.
One of the most common issues I encounter when speaking with people about staying safe online is understanding Facebook's privacy settings. They can be confusing and they are constantly changing. As a result some people simply accept Facebook's default settings and assume that if it's good enough for Facebook that it's good enough for them. The problem with this is that you may actually be sharing more information than you realize.
One of the reasons for this is that Facebook relies on advertisers to make money. Facebook in turn provides certain information about its users, which allows them to market specifically to each user based on that user's likes, interests, etc. For more information on what is shared with advertisers and outside parties, check out this link http://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy#!/policy.ph
The good news is that the privacy settings are completely customizable. You can choose to allow everyone to view your photos or just a select few of your choosing. You can choose to limit what information is shared about you through your friends. You can even choose whether your name shows up in the public search on Facebook.
The bottom line is this: You control what you put on Facebook and what is shared with others. Become familiar with Facebook's privacy and account settings and see what you are currently sharing. If you see that you're sharing more than you want, change the settings until you are comfortable with them. If you still feel that you're sharing too much information, you can always deactivate your account. Try uProtect.it
, which offers an additional privacy layer on top of Facebook. You can also try Bitdefender Safego
to help protect you from exposing too much private data.
Have you ever thought about what your online presence says about you? If you Googled yourself, what would you find? Would it be something that you want everyone to see? Is it something that you want your parents, teachers, potential employers, current employers, college admissions officers, police or a stranger knowing about you? Millions of people use social media sites such as Facebook, blogs, photo/video sharing sites and other internet sites everyday to post information without realizing that it could be reaching thousands, if not millions, of people.
Before we post anything online, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Who could potentially be looking at what I post?
2. How could they interpret or percieve what I post?
3. Are there things I should keep personal?
4. How will what I am about to post affect me from one year from now? Five? Ten?
5. How will what I post affect others?
6. Would I want ___________ (Family, boss, police , stranger, etc.) to see what I posted?
Just wanted to welcome everyone to the new site and new blog! I will try to post something here every once in a while that is current, fresh and relevant to the topic of internet safety. One of the hot topics that I have been following concerns Facebook's privacy and security settings. I have noticed recently that Facebook revamps these settings about every three days (or so it seems). This is important to keep up since it is possible that your settings could revert back to Facebook's default settings when this happens. A good rule of thumb would be to check your privacy and security settings each time you notice or hear that Facebook has updated their privacy and/or security. I will try to keep everyone posted through this site as well as Facebook and Twitter any time that I see that Facebook has changed the settings. Feel free to comment on any of these blogs as I welcome the discussion.