Social media and networking are great ways to keep in touch with friends and keep tabs on the current events. I often find excellent educational tools via Twitter, Scoop.it! and Diigo. Apart from the silly names of these applications, there are some negatives of which we should all be aware. However, using social networking tools safely is just common sense, and most precautions can be applied to the whole suite of tools that our children use.
Firstly, children shouldn’t upload or post content that doesn’t belong to them, or that they do not have permission to share. Of course, everyone needs to be aware that anything that appears on a computer (or touch device) screen can be captured and saved as an image, even if it is deleted from the original website. That’s what the PrtScn button on our keyboard does. Also, switch off any geo-tagging options. This function attaches a location to your images, which makes it easy for people to locate you or the places you frequent.
Another great rule to follow is to only add content that your mother, father, principal or grandparents would find acceptable. Children should imagine these people are looking over their shoulder – would their next post embarrass, shame or hurt their loved ones or College community members? If there is any chance of a ‘Yes’, than delete or change the content. Add to this list the question; ‘Will someone be hurt by this?’ Children can turn to the bible (Luke 6:31) and follow the mantra ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ Why not throw in the number one CyberRule; DO NOT SHARE YOUR PASSWORD! You would be amazed by the number of students who share their passwords with friends or have easily guessed passwords. By the way, running your index finger along a row of keys on the keyboard is not a password. You know who you are.
Lastly, don’t share too much information. That includes too much information in photos. Students may think they are only sharing their deep, dark secret or intimate image with one friend, but friendships change and the ‘Forward’ function is found everywhere. How many students have falling outs with their BFFs every week?
Which brings me to Instagram. This is a great app for instantly sharing photos and then commenting on them. However, like all social networking apps, it is prone to becoming another method of bullying and exploiting the young and vulnerable. If your child is on Instagram, get them to show you how it works, check out their stream of images and comments, create an account, follow them and make sure that they and their friends are using it in the spirit in which it was designed.