Written by: Joel Miller
Social networking sites are a huge part of modern culture, particularly when it comes to teens. For many, various social media outlets, like Facebook, are a routine method of communicating with friends and for sharing experiences, images or just random thoughts. At first this might seem like a harmless activity and a way to remain in contact with friends, even if they've moved and no longer live in the same city, the same state, or even country. But there are many downsides to social networks that people might not think of when they are making a comment or posting a picture. In fact, the downside of using these types of sites can affect a person all through their high school years and long after.
When a person is on the Internet, it is important that he or she carefully considers everything that they do. The things that people write and the pictures that they post can potentially be seen by anyone with computer access. Even on accounts that are meant to be "private", certain information is still visible to the public or may be spread by others who do have permission to access the contents of the page. As a result, every action that a person takes online has potentially serious consequences. These consequences may be embarrassing, or cause a person to get in trouble in school and with his or her parents. In some cases, what a person posts online may affect them in the future when they apply to college or try to get a job. Before posting pictures of oneself or saying anything controversial, hateful or insensitive, a person should stop and consider what consequences may arise from his or her actions.
The Internet is inhabited by people from all over the world, and all of those people have access to you. By restricting what one shares on the Internet they are restricting stranger's access to personal, identifiable information. When a person signs up for a social media website, he or she should avoid sharing information like their date-of-birth, phone number, or home address. A student should not say what high school they attend or share when the next family vacation is taking place. Teens should also avoid sharing any personal information that is sex-related.
Good manners aren't just something that a person practices in person. They also are important in terms of interactions on the Internet. What a person posts can hurt others' feelings and can even be taken as bullying or harassment. Before posting a comment to someone or about someone, a person should stop and consider how that comment sounds. Does it sound mean-spirited? Is it something that would hurt their feelings if it was said to or about them? The same thing applies for posting images of another person. It is also good manners to never post a picture of someone without their permission. When online people should not forget common courtesy, such as typing in "please" and "thank you". How a person writes may also make a post or an email appear rude. One way to avoid this is to not use all capitals when typing as it is often interpreted as yelling.
There are a few things that teens or their parents will want to do so that they can ensure that access to their chatroom or social networking profile is secure. One of these is to choose a user or screen name that is unique and won't give away any identifiable information. Another step that should always be taken is to use the privacy settings. Privacy settings are a way to control who has access to a person's profile on both social networking websites and in chatrooms. These settings should also be set so that the teen or his or her parents have control over who can view the profile. In many cases, privacy settings will also allow teens to block people who they do not want to have contact with.
Before children are allowed online, parents should educate them about what to expect on the Internet. Although there are many fun and enjoyable things on the Internet, there are also many things that children need to be cautious of. Adult themed content that is either violent or sexually explicit is not suitable for children. They should be taught that there are adults who frequent websites designed for children or who join chat rooms or social networking sites specifically to meet children and teens. Most importantly children and teens both should be aware of what to do about cyberbullying, online harassment, or anything that makes them scared or uncomfortable while online.