This is not one of those blog posts where you’ll find “10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe” or other informative tips and tricks for raising children in the age of Facebook and Twitter. This post is an open question. I don’t know the answer, and I’m hoping someone else might.
I recently read a news article about high school students at a prestigious private school in the area who became victims of extortion over the Internet. You can find the full story here: “BC High Officials Warn Parents of Apparent Internet Scam” via Boston.com.
The gist of it is this: at least one teenage boy was duped into sharing personal information with someone whom he believed was a teenage girl. Unfortunately, this was no teenage girl. Casual online conversations turned criminal when this person attempted to extort the boy, threatening to post his very personal information publicly. The school has “urged parents to check their sons’ Facebook pages and have conversations about online safety.“
I feel for the parents and students. A scam like this could easily leave a young boy more than embarrassed, but with permanent damage to his reputation, online and off. Could it have ruined chances at getting accepted at the college of their choice? Maybe. Maybe worse. Inaccurate information, or personal Information posted about you online is difficult to bury. Employers peruse social media websites to help decide who to hire, and in some cases who to fire.
As a parent, I can’t help but believe that this didn’t have to happen. When they are young, we tell our kids: “Don’t talk to strangers!” “Don’t take a ride with someone you don’t know.” We tell them to run, not walk, away from people and situations that don’t seem right.
Then, we give them a laptop, a tablet, or a cell phone and an email account. Sometimes we forget to remind them that when they post a silly comment on Twitter, that it’s like shouting to a stadium full of onlookers.
The popularity of all things social media, from Facebook, to Twitter, to Pinterest, makes them comfortable with sharing just about anything with anyone. We forget to remind them that “stranger danger” exists online too. Or maybe we do remond them, even lecture the, but maybe it’s just not enough.
After all these students are pretty smart guys. They’d have to be to be accepted into this high school. They should know better, right? But then again, they should know not to smoke, not to drink, not to text while driving, and to always wear their seatbelt; but I bet many of them ignore those rules, too. Teenagers are the biggest risk takers out there, so I am pretty sure many of them think they are impervious to the crazy Internet stalkers, bullies and con-artists out there.
So, what’s a parent to do? Lock up the computer? Cancel our Internet accounts? Take away the cell phones? I doubt it. We are as bad as they are. How many of us have accidently updated our Facebook status with a less than prudent comment? Do you have more FB friends than you have on your Christmas card list? Do you have friends you’ve never met? I bet you do!
When was the last time you checked your Facebook Privacy settings?
Social Media ain’t going anywhere. I am just glad that my kids are too young to have email accounts and type IMs to their friends. I have a bit more time to figure this thing out.