How to stay safe on social media is a hot topic for all, not just teenagers. But as a young person you’re even more vulnerable to the pitfalls of the online world.
Our personal safety workshop spends some time covering how to stay safe on the internet but if you’re not local to Tunbridge Wells and can’t attend any of our courses, hopefully this brief guide will help you make better, and safer, decisions online.
Let’s get one thing straight from the get go, we are pro social media. It’s a huge part of modern life and looks set to be so for the foreseeable future. However, there’s very little info available teaching teenagers how to use it effectively.
Of course there are risks involved, as with anything in life. But just as you teach a child the dangers of crossing a road, we believe by educating children from an early age about online interaction and usage we can minimise the risks involved.
Let’s start by looking at some of the pros of social networking.
Powerful Learning Tool
Social media can be used in a number of interesting ways to engage students on a new level and accelerate their learning and enjoyment of subjects. Some schools encourage students to keep a blog, others use social media to share their students work. The Hangouts feature on Google+ can even be used to facilitate remote teaching.
It also offers a whole new avenue for research with the possibilities of students even being able to acquire first hand opinions and quotes from experts to use to back up their work.
For many teens and young adults the idea of tuning into the 10 o’clock news or flicking through the morning newspaper is foreign. However, the ease and immediacy of social media gives them an option to consume news in a way that suits their lifestyle, meaning they are still keeping up with current events.
Social media is at its purest a platform for networking. Not just between friends, but between family, distant relatives and connections you thought would never be made again. In addition teens can even follow brands and companies, including their schools in some cases. Be the first to hear about snow days!
Risks to the personal safety of the user and their information are the biggest concerns most have over the use of social media. Though these risks can be reduced significantly by proper use. It’s important to draw a line between reality and the online world. Remembering that in many cases everything you do will be traceable and potentially viewed by strangers.
Never share personal information publicly, ensure the correct privacy settings are applied to all of your accounts and be vigilant that you really know who you are communicating with. If ever in doubt or suspicious of someones activity, speak to an adult.
Unfortunately, just as in the physical world, bullying is rife online. If anything the detachment created by interfacing through a machine encourages even more vicious bullying. Sadly this has resulted in a number of highly publicised cases of teenagers taking their life.
The blame cannot be left solely at social media’s doorstep. Yes it helps facilitate these acts but the harsh reality is the perpetrators are often continuing bullying that is already taking place offline. More needs to be done to educate people on the consequences of online bullying and the repercussions of doing so.
The best way to defend against this is to report abusers immediately and as a parent carefully monitor your teens online activity. Talk to them if you notice a change in their mood as a result of online behaviour.
Many schools and parents see social media as a nuisance, and rightly so. If online interaction through mobiles and tablets is not regulated and monitored it can become a huge distraction. Enforcing firm ground rules from day one is key to keeping the tweeting in check.
There’s no empirical evidence to support this yet but there’s also a growing concern that young people’s dependance on social media could lead to a generation of adults with poor social skills.
Be careful what you tweet. There are a number of stories of current and prospective employees losing out on jobs and being fired for their past actions on social media sites like Twitter.
You may remember locally 17 year old Paris Brown quit her role with the police as Kent youth commissioner when tweets she wrote between the ages of 14 and 16 were deemed offensive.
If you’d like to find out more about staying safe both online and offline take a look at our Personal Safety course.