I had intended to cover a technical aspect of ‘custom settings’ for kids on computers, but I think it is more important to address the behaving online portion first as better preparation. Just like getting properly dressed and ‘ready’ to go out to any social function. The problem that exists online is that we don’t do that and we don’t teach our kids this either. We are constantly hearing about how people ‘got into trouble’ with something they said or did online. There was a time where many people ‘hid’ online through screen names in chat rooms or instant messaging. Today’s social networking services use real identities. The person is out there as to who they really are. So let’s take a look at that aspect of things.
First of all, I don’t think social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, or even MySpace are ‘bad’ things. I think they are actually amazing and provide us with a means to communicate like never before. The problems that crop up aren’t with the service, but rather how people use them and their perception of them. My recommendation is to first take the phrase ‘it’s just the internet’ out f your vocabulary. The ‘online world’ is actually no different socially than the ‘physical world’. Therefore, all of the same concepts apply in how we act and behave as adults and how we teach our children to act and behave online and physical social settings. For example, no one that I know would want their child walking around in public with a poster slandering a Teacher or School Administrator. We all know that could have repercussions for our child. What have students done? Posted pictures slandering school officials online. When found out, there were repercussions to their child’s reputation and future educational opportunities. What was the parents’ response? “It’s just the internet.” Doesn’t make sense. So here’s some things to keep in mind with protecting yur reputation online:
- Your Image Many people post a photo of themselves on these services. As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Use a nice picture of yourself. Just like you probably get dressed nice to go out in public to present yourself the best you can, do the same online.
- What Information To Provide In Profiles Unless you are savvy about who has access to your personal information (i.e. address, email address, phone number, etc.), only provide the minimum. If one of your contacts wants that information, they will ask and you can choose whether or not to provide it.
- Who to ‘link up with’ on these services The short answer is . . . only people you know. It can be ‘fun’ to have big ‘friends lists’, but some people unfortunately use these services for malicious reasons. Treat requests to link up like someone knocking on your door and the decision as to whether you would let them in your house or not. In terms of our kids, what’s the one thing we teach them when they are toddlers? Yup, DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS! So make sure they use the same rule online.
- What you post It’s cool to be able to post pictures, video, express our opinions, or even vent online. The problem is that we get desensitized on these sites and forget there other real people on the other end. We’ve all made this mistake which comes back and ‘bites us’ online and offline. I’ve done it an that’s how I know the importance of mentioning it here. If you are primarily using the service for professional purposes, be very careful here. You can damage your self, your company, and your career far more than you know. In terms of your kids, they also need to be careful. If they are talking about drugs online as a joke, it will be perceived the same way as it would if that was overheard in school or in public. Politics is a big one these days and it can get ‘heated’. I have my opinions and express unpopular opinions probably too much, and some people don’t like that. I try to be civil, but to each their own. It’s your call. My suggestion again is if it’s for professional purposes, leave the politics out of things.
It’s really that simple. Just keep in mind all the things you would (and would not) say and do in normal social settings and you’ll be fine. All the same things you teach your children in terms of proper conduct also should apply to online. Have fun.