Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Over-Sharing" And Other Online Concerns

When I say "over-sharing", I'm not just talking about parents telling too much about their kids online. That can be a problem too, but I'm talking about showing much more of ourselves online than we would have before. It's great to see photos of our long-distance friends and family, but are there some things we just don't need others to see? Are there things others post that you don't care to see?

Employers often take advantage of technology when it comes to screening job applicants. For this reason, it's probably not a good idea to post the pictures of you drunk at a frat party in college on Facebook. While some employers will understand that we're not be the same person now that we were when the photo was taken and that what someone does in their spare time doesn't necessarily affect their work, others might not.

This is also true for teens applying for/going to certain colleges; I've known of private, religiously-affiliated schools not accepting or suspending students involved in activities (getting drunk, dressing provocatively etc) they consider to be dishonorable. Is that a risk you're willing to take? I'm not sure I would want to work for a company or go to a school that would hold unrelated spare-time activities against me, but that's just me. Employers don't always check, but you never know who will and who won't. Facebook allows you to set permissions of who can view what about you, so use it thoughtfully.

This principle doesn't just apply to social networks. I've moderated religion and spirituality forums for over ten years. I've seen virulently racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments as well as harassment of other posters that can make a person look completely different-and negatively so-than they are in real life. I'm sure no one here would say anything like that, but some teens and “tweens” find it fun to “spoof” or “troll” message boards and say things like this just to get a rise out of people. It's not funny now, and it definitely won't be down the line. Comments can't always be traced back to the posters, but some have been. Even if they aren't, words can hurt.

I can't imagine why a person would talk about something as personal as having been raped or being a recovered alcoholic online if they didn't want other people to know about it, but be wise about where you post things. Private boards, private chat rooms or password-protected blog posts are helpful; otherwise, just use common sense.

Remember that anything we put online is out there for good. We might be able to take down the videos or pictures we post, but there's still the possibility of someone else downloading it. Even if something can't be traced back to the person who posted it or have a negative effect on their future job prospects, teens need to understand that those pictures and comments are still going to be out there when they've outgrown whatever it was that they posted. I can think of plenty of things I did that I don't want to be reminded of. I'm not suggesting that your kids be paranoid so much as that they think about the possible consequences before posting something online.

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