On Sunday February 13th our confirmands and mentors gathered with our own Ryan Taylor to discuss the benefits and perils of social networking. Ryan has been working in the social media world as a software engineer, and is our local expert! He is also the developer of our wonderful website. The teens had a chance to share specific concerns about social media, and also heard from Ryan about the ways in which teens get into trouble with this powerful technology. We discussed:
1. Cyber-bullying. One in five teens are cyber-bullied. We noted that by passing on a defamatory and hurtful message, one particpates in the bullying. Strategies for coping were suggested. First and foremost….tell a parent or trusted adult.
2. The emotional distance of an on-line communication (i.e. it is not face to face) allows one to say things that one might not otherwise.
3. Sharing information about oneself on Facebook or other sites immediately becomes public domain. Nothing is ever deleted and nothing is private. Basically Facebook owns your online presence and the data is stored and accessed in many ways, some of which you may not desire. The same is true for texting…there is always a permanent storage which can be accessed by law enforcement officials etc. Future employers could probably also access the data.
4. “Sexting” or transmitting sexually explicit pictures of anyone under the age of 18 is a crime…to send or receive. It is imperative to tell a parent or school official if you receive one. Document the receipt and do not respond.
5. It is estimated that there are 5 million online predators eager to gain the trust of an unsuspecting teen. Identities are easy to fake and one can unwittingly give sufficient information that personal contact could be made…even if the teen does not initiate that.
6. Texting makes it easy to act on impulse, and can “ramp up” a relationship before the relationship even really exists. Expectations are set in terms of what behaviors might be engaged in…and then it is difficult to back down from what has been promised in the texted communication.
We thank Ryan for his time and expertise. Our next step is to set up a larger meeting with parents or other interested people. Stay tuned.