Every week, I have a meeting with my staff to make sure we are on the same page and sharing information. Today’s conversation led us to talk about online safety and sharing. We have been running a lot of digital citizenship trainings and I’ve found that not enough information is being shared on how we should act online. Working in my field, I’ve seen the worst of the worst when it comes to social media. Teens telling each other they should go “drink bleach”, teachers posting pictures making fun of their students, and even office workers creating “hate pages” to vent about their fellow co-workers. I need to share this information so that we can start changing our habits on how we act online. We need to realize that what we put online is permanent and may be used against us.
We are taught how to behave in school, how to behave towards our boss, but we are never told how to behave online. When I ask teens and even some of the adults I work with about how they act online, the scary thing is that they often tell me that they act the same way online as they do in person. My thoughts are: Yep…there goes a little white LIE.
Let’s think of Facebook. If I was new to Facebook, I would sit at my computer and be amazed at the world we live in. Everyone is beautiful, happy, and successful. There is not a bad picture or post that would indicate people are living in a world that is filled with the political debacle, war, disease, death, and corruption. Don’t get me wrong, our world is great, but go on Facebook and our world is…AMAZING! I mean, come on, find one person that does not have a beautiful selfie on their wall. In some rare cases, some courageous friends post about cancer, loss, or pain. These posts remain in the minority, so when we see these posts with these painful truths, we might get uncomfortable or can’t even get ourselves to read it. It is hard to read about pain, but it is so easy to click away and be envious of our friend’s beautiful lives.
For many of us, we are different online than we are in person. Online, we don’t have to look someone in the face or be put on the spot to respond right away. We can be bolder or hide our true feelings behind a keyboard or our phone. Is there a way we can bridge the gap between our virtual self and actual self? Can we protect our private self and build a strong public (online) self without dissociating ourselves from both personas?
As an adult and facilitator that runs trainings on this topic, it is important to think about what message you are putting online about yourself and why you are doing it. Nothing lasts forever, except what you put online. There is always a way to get around those ever-changing privacy settings. It is important to think about how we use social media, how we expose ourselves, and how we present our virtual selves on these platforms. Let’s take a moment to examine our own behavior online so that we can take some of that self-awareness and apply it to teaching our kids how to be a good digital citizen online.