Social Media and Your Child

The Times has what could be considered a somewhat funny kind of "whoops" story except that the bigger issue of social media and your child is more sobering.

The story is about Miss Seattle, Jean-Sun Hannah Ahn.  She won her crown last Saturday. The next day reporter Linda Thomas from KIRO-FM posted a story about Ms. Ahn's Twitter postings from a couple of months back.

Apparently, Ms. Ahn, who is from Mukilteo, had gone to school in Arizona and now finds Seattle, well, rainy.  She also finds many people and situations "annoying."  The story ran on more than 240 news sites.

So this is no big deal except for what comes later in the story.

But we just keep tweeting and Facebooking away, many of us not worrying that those embarrassing tweets and photos never go away or that they can ultimately mean loss of a job, not being accepted into a particular college and, in certain spectacular situations, becoming a national laughingstock.

Now it's one thing if you are an adult.  But kids?  They just don't know how easily information on the web can follow you around.  Deleting tweets does NOT make them go away forever if they are cached somewhere else.

To whit:

But what might seem funny at age 19 might not translate so well, especially when applying to a college.
A 2011 survey by Kaplan Test Prep, the education company, of college-admission officers showed that 24 percent of them had gone to an applicant's Facebook or other social-networking page.
And, says Kaplan, 12 percent of admissions officers said that what they found negatively impacted the applicant's admissions chances including "vulgarities" and "alcohol consumption in photos and 'illegal activities.' "

An MSNBC story last week said "student-athletes in colleges around the country also are finding out they can no longer maintain privacy in Facebook communications because schools are requiring them to 'friend' a coach or compliance officer, giving that person access to their 'friends-only' posts."

Case in point about social media, again, comes to us locally:

That's advice that should have been followed by the three legislative aides fired in December from the Washington, D.C., office of Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens.

The congressman sacked them after tweets became public that called him "idiot boss" and further proclaimed: "showed up this morning at 9:00am with shots of Jack. What a glorious and frightening way to kick off the month."

"Dear taxpayers — I hope you don't mind that I'm watching YouTube clips of Nirvana at my government job. Thanks, you're the best."

When I was co-president at Roosevelt, I had written an article for the parent newsletter on this issue.  Students can lose job opportunities, internships and possibly admission to a college or university for what they tweet or post on Facebook.   I can only imagine being 12, 14, 16 and having a lot of fun sending silly tweets or dopey photos.

The problem is none of it is private.  It's one of the joys/problems of a modern age.

What was interesting is that when I wrote my article, I got some feedback from parents whose students said it isn't fair for colleges or employers to check their social media output.

Kids, life isn't fair and if you are trying to pick between two people, who would you hire?  The person with the once-a-week drunk girl pictures or the guy whose Facebook updates are all about his volunteer service?

My kids just beat this issue by a few years but I know many of you have young students.  Help them, protect them and guide them on this issue.


Anonymous said…
Being judged for the content of your free speech rights is not American and probably unconstitutional. If that speech can be judged for employment and admission purposes then so can all the other aspects of the 1st Amendment. I think the law hasn't caught up to how invasive and frankly illegal the misuse of social media is becoming. The whole point of 'public' and 'private' settings is to protect your speech and set a bright line between what can be seen by all.

Someone said…
It's a tough line to walk these days - and vendors are making it harder and harder to keep things "private" even if you think you've set it that way - the new Google privacy settings have caused a mini-firestorm, especially in Europe, for example.

I have a 14 yr old step-daughter - and other than the depth of clothing on her bedroom floor, this is the topic we diagree on the most - she just can't quite grasp why something like friending other fans of her fav Anime show is potentially problematic. Since I work in the internet security field, I've tried telling her some of the stories I know of teens ending up threatened, having pics misused and the like - she just thinks I'm being an overprotective fuddy duddy.

Maybe so ;) But this stuff doesn't go away - what you put out there now, or 5 years ago is still findable 5 years from now for people who know what they are doing - especially with companies like FB constantly tweaking privacy settings.

I agree there is a free speech aspect to the conversation, but the safety aspects worry me much much more right now.
ArchStanton said…
Twelve year old Minnesota girl alleges school privacy invasion

Facebook's minimum age is 13, but we all know how easily and thoroughly that is enforced...
I don't enough about Twitter; are there settings? I thought you just look through the list of people/groups with a Twitter account and sign up for their tweets. (But I'm out of the loop, so help me out here.)
seattle citizen said…
I gave up the idea of privacy years ago: My neighbors regulary eavesdrop on my party line telly-phone. They KNOW four rings is for me, yet they pick up and listen. As does the operator. It's sooo rude!
Someone said…
Yes, one can set twitter so that only those you've approved as "followers" can read your tweets. 99% of people of course don't do that of course - and I think a lot of folks aren't aware of how easy it is to use one of the twitter search products to find keywords and find out who's talking about a particular topic.
So you don't even need to have an acct to read much of what gets said there.
Josh Hayes said…
I think a lot of kids don't grasp that "saying" something on Facebook is exactly the same as shouting it in a public place. It's overheard by lots of people you forget can hear you, and so if you post about interviewing for a job with "some uptight a-hole", that interviewer may well hear you hollering, so to speak. Why on earth anyone thinks that anything they put on the internet should be private is beyond me: if you want it to stay private, don't put it out there.
ArchStanton said…
I think they grasp it to some degree, but can't think ahead to a time when something they posted might have a significant impact. Also, this is a generation that has grown up with tell-all talk shows and 'reality' TV where your 15 minutes of fame is the Holy Grail, bad behavior is rewarded (or at least appears to be), and negative consequences are rarely acknowleged.
Anonymous said…
I made my daughter "friend" me when she got her FB account. When she was 13, there were a few posts I told her to take down—nothing awful, but still not something you'd want to follow you forever. At 17, she's much better about what she posts and uses FB more as a way to chat with friends. It's not a perfect solution, but it's the best any of us can do, I think.

This works because I check my FB account at least once a day, so I usually see everything she posts.


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