Friday, February 25, 2011

My Message to Parents about Social Media

This week I sat on a panel for parents about Social Media hosted by Michael Thompson. With me on the panel were two alums from the class of '05 and '10 (The '05 graduate is also on the faculty) and a current senior. The two youngest alums were also in my Digital Journalism class. 

We each opened with a few remarks. When I am in this position with parents I try to spin Social Media in as positive a light as possible. So many of these panels feature police officers that use scare tactics that I try to give the glass half full perspective. Here is what I talked about.

Digital Legacy
  • What goes online stays online.... forever. Even if you think it is private it really isn't. Anyone can take a screenshot of anything you write or post and share it with anyone. There is no digital privacy and we should all behave with that assumption at the back of our mind. It should make us "better people."
  • Take control of it, don’t let it control you. You have the ability to take control of your digital persona. The more you put online yourself, the more you drown out anything you might not want to be seen. Buy your own domain name, start a blog, get on Twitter and use all of these tools to create your best public self possible. This post, 5 Reasons why your Online Presence will Replace your Resume in 10 Years is an excellent example of how and why to do this.
Networking has benefits and drawbacks
  • Behavior changes according to context. Kids need to learn proper online etiquette for a variety of situations. This is a message we should be teaching kids at home and at school. You need to know your audience. There are things you can say with friends that you would never say in school. Students need to always keep this in mind, while also realizing that nothing is private online (see above).
  • Networks built young have great potential. Kids are building connections now that can serve them well into their professional lives.
  • Fail young. I believe it general it is helpful to let kids to "fail" in middle school when the stakes are lower. When you first get involved with a social network it can be addicting and wreak havoc on your time management. Usually this addiction passes after some time. It is better to get through those early heady days when the negative impact on your academics is less important.
Behavior is behavior
  • Parenting is parenting. Don't be afraid to parent when it comes to technology. Take the phone away, turn off the internet, keep the computer in a public room, limit time online. Trust your instincts.
  • Addiction is addiction. If you are concerned about your child's over-use of technology, address it before it gets out of control, just as you would any other addictive behavior.
  • Behavior is behavior. Kids know how to behave. They need to understand that their online behavior should follow the same rules as their offline behavior. The impact of bad behavior Online can have much greater repercussions!
There was more said, but this is the general message I tried to communicate.

What would you add or take away?

Image Source: A glass half full by sarah and mike ...probably
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