In light of the recent hackers that leaked nude & semi-nude photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, use this opportunity to revisit online safety with your tweens and teens as a new school year begins in order to protect themselves while on the computer at home, at a friend’s home, school or the public library.

Six main points to consider when explaining cyber civility to teens are the following:

1. Boundaries – creating boundaries are important. It would be like appearing naked in front of a group of people. We would feel well…exposed. Eeekkk!! Online sharing is very much like that. Teens need to be aware of the danger of over-sharing, sharing too much information. The internet is a very public domain. We need to keep some aspects of our lives private away from the gaze of strangers. Perhaps these celebrities should have given that some thought before posting nude & semi-nude selfies.

2. Cyber Civility – if I can’t say that to the person’s face, then I definitely shouldn’t be posting it either. All posts are public…we have to be prepared that many people (aka strangers to us) will read and share that post, potentially. It may even appear on the 6 o’clock News. Think before you post!!! Sharing negative comments about other students or teachers online isn’t the appropriate forum to vent frustrations. Face to face conversations work better to clear the air, if required.

3. Friends – define a “friend”. Is it reasonable that one can be “friends” with umpteen followers? A friend is someone who is trustworthy. Friendships develop by spending time together, having shared interests. Given that definition, we can be friends with about 10-15 people at most. The other 390 followers are actually more like strangers. Furthermore, we have no control over which post will be shared among these strangers. Don’t forget that each of them probably have 390 followers (aka strangers), too. See the potential for posts going viral? It’s staggering!!!

4. Good judgment & discretion – these are essential while online. Teens need to use good judgment to know what can and shouldn’t be shared or posted. Does every minutiae of life have to be the subject of every post?? And discretion is important, too but rarely talked about these days. It’s defined as the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information. It’s just too easy for posts to go awry especially if there is a negative emotional charge attached.

5. People are watching – like future employers, university/college registrars, even your friends’ parents. Help teens to understand that their online behavior will be judged. Keeping it always positive and up-lifting creates a good image. Their character is speaking loud and clear.

6. Social media – has it been good for us as a society? Facebook (1.71 billion active users!!) was first on the scene over 10 years ago. As a result, sociologists have been expressing concerns about the fact that young people are losing the ability to make real, live human connections. They often lack empathy because there’s no reaction seen or felt by one’s behavior toward another person while online. And these social media platforms have unwittingly created an odd narcissistic type of display especially among tweens & teens (and some adults, too).

Social media is a great tool on some many levels (business & personal) but like any tool, if used improperly, can be frightening and dangerous. Tweens and teens lack the experience to see the long term consequences of “not so” innocent posts today. Our job as parents is to help them avoid the pitfalls while enjoying a little catching up with family and friends.


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