NOTE- My intended audience is students, but parents, feel free to discuss this with your kids as well!
Ten years ago when I was teaching English, I used to stress to my students the need to change their email addresses from something silly and/or profane (email@example.com) to a more professional representation of who they are (maybe something that actually included their name). Back then your email address and perhaps your IM (Instant Messenger, remember that?) account were pretty much the extent of what we might call social media. These were the days before Facebook, when tweeting is what birds did, and you felt pretty lucky if you had a Motorola Razr or some other comparable flip phone.
Times have definitely changed, but the importance of how you present yourself online still remains as important as ever. In fact, it’s probably more important than it used to be. The proliferation of websites, apps, programs, etc that connect you online to your friends (not to mention the millions of strangers that can also see your so-called private thoughts) makes it an even bigger task than just selecting an appropriate email address. I’ve only been on Twitter since August, but these past few months have really opened my eyes to just how much we need to continue to emphasize digital citizenship. Here are my top five tips to students for managing your online presence (followed by some other thought provoking images and videos):
1) Like an email address, your Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat account should be something that relates to your name and doesn’t make people uncomfortable when they follow or mention you. I’d love to give you a shout out, but what would people think if they saw your obscene Twitter name in my feed?
2) Help your grandma set up a Twitter account and have her follow you. If you feel awkward having your grandma read your posts or view your photos, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing it?
3) Treat social media like a classroom presentation. Would you want your teachers seeing those pictures of you and your friends with red Solo cups? Forget the fact that you probably shouldn’t be drinking what’s in the cup (that’s the topic for another top 5 tips list)–don’t think that the people seeing your posts are stupid and don’t know what you’re talking about or doing.
4) You can’t erase in cyberspace. Think about the permanence of your actions before you put it online. Yes, you can delete posts, but what about the people who saw it before it was deleted and saved it or took a screen shot? Think hard about whether you want a statement or photo out there forever.
5) Don’t say things via social media that you wouldn’t say if the person was there in the room with you. It’s easy to feel anonymous online and empowered to be bolder than we really are. If the superintendent visited our school, would you stand up in the cafeteria and challenge her decision to close or not close schools? This also applies to how we treat one another. Messages can get pretty mean and, in some cases, be cyberbullying. Check out the video below for an example of what I’m talking about.
Thanks to Brian Bassett from the Department of Communications for bringing these resources to my attention (click to see full size):