(This recap is from a recent teen workshop by Jim Holler, who served as Chief of Police for sixteen years, called “Social Networking: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”.)
The internet is an important tool that can be used for many helpful things such as staying connected with friends/family, education, work, shopping, and entertainment. But we should also remember that there are risks/dangers that come along with using the internet.
Sexual abuse is a real problem, and there are child predators around the
internet. You never know who is a child predator and who isn’t. Chances are the person
you’re talking to is like you – a person who wants to enjoy the internet without any ill
intent. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, just in case. Be cautious about the
information you give (name, location, etc.). Don’t be too specific, or better yet, just don’t
give anything personal away at all. Be careful about what pictures you post of yourself,
or don’t post any of yourself at all. If someone asks you for pictures of yourself and you
feel uncomfortable sharing them, report and/or block them (especially if the pictures
they’re asking for are private/inappropriate ones. Don’t give into that! Bad things will most certainly
I have to point out that, on the topic of pictures of yourself, I think this goes for
adults (more specifically parents) as well as kids. Kids and teens can be told not to post
pictures of themselves on the internet, and even if they take that advice and never post
those pictures, it doesn’t really do any good if their parents are already posting pictures
of them, anyway.
Even if you’re only sending a private message to someone, you never know who
else is going to end up with that information/picture. Depending on the type of platform
you’re using, there may be ways other people could find that information. The person
you’re talking to could also share what you give them with other people. Don’t send
someone something in private that you wouldn’t be comfortable with being public.
Cyberbullying and rumors are also something to be concerned about. People can
share untrue things about other people to embarrass, humiliate, and bring them down.
It’s not okay to share information about people that isn’t true, and if you see someone
else say something about someone, and you don’t know if it’s true or not, it’s best to not
share it with anyone else. Even if it IS true, it’s just gossip, and that isn’t great. It all
falls under the category of cyberbullying, which is never okay.
The internet can be used for good, like sharing creative things like your artwork,
writing, etc. but keep in mind the dangers and stay safe with the information you share. Know how to handle unsafe situations and stay safe!