Teenagers posting personal information on line has been an issue for a while. Also with the advent of cyber bullying it has made what teens post on line even more of an issue. Many teenagers have committed suicide due to cyber bullying.
In addition to cyber bullying, on line posting by teenagers has been associated with depression and low self-esteem. Many teens feel everyone always has positive things about their lives to post. Also some teens feels embarrassed because other teens have over 500 friends and they do not have that many friends. These issues involved with posting on line do have a dramatic impact on teenagers.
I recently read a blog by Frank Sonnenberg which addressed the issue of appropriate on line sharing by teenagers. His blog shared some comments by Sue Scheff. She is a nationally recognized author, parent advocate, and family Internet safety expert. Her new book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, is powerful! The book is filled with practical advice and real-world examples, as well as powerful tools and strategies, to ensure that you thrive—and don’t become a victim of the cyberworld.
I have found her work very helpful and I tend to make the same recommendations to the teenagers I see for psychotherapy that Sue put in her book. Below are some guidelines Sue Scheff recommends about on line posting. I support these recommendations because they help protect teenagers from cyberbullying and feelings of depression and low self-esteem.
Sharing much too much: It’s about time we realize that not everything we do in our life needs to be documented online. Many of us have become addicted to documenting practically every breath we take on social media, from eating a doughnut to taking a train ride. Is it any wonder that overshare was The Chambers Dictionary’s word of the year in 2014? Even digitally savvy teens think people are divulging TMI online. In a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 88 percent of teen social media users agreed that people share too much of themselves on social media. Everyone needs to understand the importance of social sharing for your platform—versus oversharing for your ego. A 2015 UCLA study revealed that people who overshare on social media are at a higher risk of being cybershamed. This study suggests oversharing of personal information leads bystanders to blame and not feel for the victim.
Sharing inappropriate material: The Internet is unforgiving. Before texting, tweeting, emailing, posting, or sharing anything, consider how you’d feel if your words or images went viral. Is your human need for approval, for eliciting likes and retweets, driving you to share questionable material? Does the content convey how you truly want to be perceived? You should have zero expectation of privacy when it comes to cyberspace.
Sharing with the wrong people: You should frequently review the settings on your social media accounts and make sure you actually know who are connecting with. Who’s in your Facebook friends and cell-phone contact lists? Do you actually know them? Would you be embarrassed if you accidentally butt-dialed one of them? In 2010, Jimmy Kimmel dubbed November 17 National Unfriend Day, a time to review your contact list and weed out your true friends from your virtual acquaintances. Just because you’ve set your privacy settings as high as possible doesn’t mean you are 100 percent secure from trolls or a friend turned foe. You may believe that you’re only sharing this with your core group, but remember, you don’t always have control over what photos others choose to take and share.
Sharing in haste: People often refer to the phrase, “Think before you post.” I say, “Pause.” It only takes a second to post—and 60 seconds to pause. Take that minute to consider that post before you hit send. Picture yourself in that photo or receiving that email. Is this something that could be embarrassing or humiliating at a later date? Does it reveal too much information? Always ask the permission of others who are in the photo, especially with children, before posting it, and never assume that they have given you permission unless they have. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times—think before you post—but that hasn’t stopped many of us from making digital blunders.
Sharing without dignity: When we see adults, politicians, celebrities, or athletes acting childish or bullish online, it sends the wrong message to our fellow adults and to our kids. Many of these people are role models who our youths look up to. But when we have videos circling of hip hop-stars sniffing cocaine over a woman’s breasts and politicians trashing the reputation of private citizens or getting caught with their digital pants down, like Anthony Weiner, over and over again (and over yet again), we have crossed a line.
Sharing with negativity: I’m sure everyone knows people who use their social media feed as a venting machine. The complaining never stops, whether it’s their bleak life, their horrible job, or their dismal dating scene. Worse is when they impose their negative thoughts on your good fortune—you’ve just landed your dream job, and they make an unenthusiastic remark like, “Not a great company to work for.” Yes, we’ve all experienced the Negative Nellies and Debbie Downers in our world, and we don’t want to be one of them—especially online. From the moment you are given the privilege of your first keyboard, your virtual résumé begins. It’s up to you to maintain and create a positive persona. It’s true, we can’t be happy all the time, and it’s fine to reach out for support in times of grief. But the good news about the Internet, and even your smartphone, is that you can turn it off if you’re having a bad day. Also, never post something in haste or anger that you might later regret—log off instead. I like to say, “When in doubt, click out.” Remember, once you post a comment, a thought or a picture, it is on the internet forever. No matter what you do, you can never totally erase it. Also if you hurt someone, you cannot change that fact either. On last point to remember, colleges are now searching for your posts on line when you apply to their college. They can find posts you thought you erased and those posts may cost you being accepted to a college. This year, Harvard University withdrew their acceptance offers to approximately 100 applicants because of posts they discovered after the acceptance letters had been mailed. Bottom line, on line posting can have very serious negative impacts on your life or other people’s lives that you are not intending to hurt.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and children. For more information about his work with teenagers or his private practice visit his website www.rcs-ca.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.