After working in online safety, digital reputation management and education for just over eight months, I thought I'd knock out some rough tips for both kids and their families. I'd love to hear your comments and reflections on the below, so do share your own perception in the comments.
Part A: Hey kids, this first section's for you:
(Teachers, parents and other adults, please scroll further)
- You will be found by those who want to find you.
- Yes, your three other Facebook accounts too.
- 'Friends of friends' isn't an adequate privacy setting, sorry.
Wanting to be famous on the internet isn't a goal
- Having 2,536 fans and 1,508 friends on Facebook doesn't mean you're popular. Not by a long shot.
- The strive for popularity isn't worth a dime if you can't make positive changes in your life after something goes wrong.
- Focus on how the internet and the social media can impact, shape and improve your future. You have unlimited potential within yourself to totally rock everything you want to do, if you step up and give it a chance, and what you do online could change this for the better or worse.
Trust is invaluable
- Much of online attacking begins as mere SMS drama. Ensure you're sharing the right data with the right people - not those who push for private information or media from you - and if in doubt, leave it another day.
- On the other hand, ALWAYS tell someone who can help. And that might be different kinds of help, not just technical. Get someone to help you work out the best way to discuss online drama, or to simply drag you away from your phone if you need a break.
- If someone is blackmailing you, seriously, get help from someone you trust ASAP.
Anon hate is the lowest of the lowest of the low
- Anonymous admins of bully pages are the most pitiful of cowards. When found they will be ostracised by their entire community and never trusted again. In the very least, they will not be able to change schools, or get their preferred job, and in the worst case scenario, they can go to prison until they're due for a mid-life crisis. Their Google results will showcase their actions for years to come, and they will have to live with this.
- If you're receiving anon hate, GTFO of there. Even just for a while. Tumblr will still be there (just uncheck the box for a while) and Ask.fm accounts can always be revived. Don't read into it and don't respond. The cowards aren't worth your time.
Part B: Adults, read this section too:
Please note that I am not a parent or caregiver myself. I am merely drawing on my experiences online and presenting to both teachers and students about social media and digital reputation.
- Many kids are careful with their privacy, but many are not.
- Check your own settings if you've not looked at them for a while.
- Parents, know your kids' social media accounts passwords until they're old enough to legally have the accounts. I'm not a parent myself, but the best discussions I had with kids often involved the provision that they were okay with their folks knowing their passwords if they were younger than the terms and conditions allowed.
Report, report, report... when necessary
- Learn how to report common issues online - particularly harassment, breach of privacy, hate speech, and intellectual property infringement.
- Teach your children how to report and the circumstances in which they might need to use this feature. Walk through the help section of their favourite sites or apps and check that both you and they know how to report concerning material.
- Be patient when reporting content to websites, and if they don't give you enough information as to the reason for not acting, try another avenue. But still, be patient.
- If your child needs emotional or psychological support, please, please, please pay attention.
- Nothing beats empathy, the occasional "YOLO" reference and meme when teaching and involving kids in discussions about internet safety.
- If kids have positive role models and assistance from trained professionals, they're a step ahead the rest. Work towards open communication with kids about the internet, and applying the same values they're taught in offline relationships to online interactions.
Resources and inspiration
- Project Rockit - excellent youth-led organisation
- A Platform for Good - more of a resource for parents
- LoveShareCare - if you're a teenage girl, check out this social network built by a girl.
I also wrote a post for BCM Partnership's Two Cents blog, on Facebook compliments pages if you're interested in the nicer side of the web.
(Dedicated to the many interested and intelligent students who asked
questions and their caring, patient teachers.)
Cover photo: Online Security by Flickr user dannyoosterveer.