Watching what we say (in an online world)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

As a teacher, people often ask me what life lessons I wish I could teach students. Other than being kind of compassionate individuals, I really, really, really think the next thing we need to focus on is the online perception students (and, heck, adults too,) present to the world. 

It's so incredibly easy these days to post anything and everything that pops into our brains. With the awesomeoness of websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a whole host of blog sites, it takes literally 1.7 seconds to transition from having a thought to posting it online. And it concerns me how much people put out there. 

Recently, a former student started following our school newspaper's Twitter account (you can follow us too @SlicerNewsroom!). Our policy is that if you follow us, and you're a LaPorte citizen or student, we'll absolutely follow you back. As I clicked the Follow button, one of my newspaper students commented that I probably wouldn't be following her for long. As soon as students start dropping lots of F-bombs or start gossiping about others, we unfollow immediately, as who really needs that popping up on a school Twitter feed? He was correct. We followed her for four days. And two of those days were weekends. And I'm not always the best about updating school Twitter on the weekends. 

Ugh. It just makes me cringe to see the things people say on their PUBLIC Twitter accounts! If I can see it, so can a potential college or military recruiter or employer. I'm truly grateful that these sites didn't exist when I was a teenager, because I'm not sure I'd want a public account of every thought I felt worthy enough to post as a 14-year-old. That probably wouldn't be very pretty. 

I wish I could find a way to really explain the ramifications of what we share in the public with my students. 

Sometimes I even wonder... 
...should I be checking in at various places on Facebook? My account is private, and I don't add anyone I don't know, but do I really want everyone knowing where I am? 
...should I mention things that happen at school on my blog? I try really hard NOT to mention work, just because I don't want to invade the privacy of my students. 
...is what I'm writing going to negatively impact anyone in my life? Because then the answer is, no, I definitely do NOT post it. 
...am I giving away any sort of personal information that I don't want out there? Because, again, who wants to do THAT? 

There are lots of lists of guidelines online about what to post and not post online. I think the best advice boils down to a pretty short list, though. 

  • Don't post your personal information. Just don't do that. Ever. 
  • Don't share everything. Not every thought, picture, and outing needs to be documented for the world to see or read. There's a lot to be said about keeping private things private! 
  • Don't hurt others. Even if you're not naming names, if you're passive-aggressively talking about others, there's a solid chance everyone knows who you're referencing. Don't do anything that might hurt another person. And don't post embarrassing photos either. I don't want someone getting mad at me in five or 18 years because I thought something was funny at the expense of others.
  • Don't post anything you wouldn't want out there for the whole world to see. Even if you think your profile is private. Even if you think there's no way an email can be intercepted. If you're not comfortable with everyone knowing, don't let anyone know it. 


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