The Internet: Only Education Will Protect Our Youth When “Private Messaging” Can Ruin Lives

The year 2006 was my freshman year of college, and I was excited to plug in to the “Facebook Phenomenon” that everyone had been fussing about. I was warned, by caring teachers and coaches, to “never post anything on the Internet that I didn’t want to see again in 15 years”. Good advice, which I took.
I wasn’t introduced to social media until I was 18, which made it easier for me to realize that I had a bright future ahead of me, which could be ruined if I, or one of my friends, foolishly posted an incriminating photograph of me on the Internet.

Fast forward to now. 7 years later. Students, as young as 10 have access to a variety of social media websites; Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and many more. However, unlike my generation, these young people do not understand the damage that can be done by the publication of a incriminating photograph online– and the 13-17-year-olds of today are NOTHING like Kevin and Winnie from the Wonder Years. They feel that the Internet is a free-for-all,  where adolescent mistakes and hormones can run wild, simply to be forgotten about after high school graduation.

In the past sites like Instagram and Facebook wouldn’t allow nude pictures to stay on their sight; however, that doesn’t prevent young people from posting pictures drinking alcohol and smoking pot, both of which are “life ruining photographs” (sadly, these are activities that our 13-17-yer-olds are doing these days).

But lately there has been a huge new development in social media; Instagram, in attempt to keep up with Snapchat, has installed private photo and video messaging. This scares me for our young people. Sure, young people have always had the ability to send inappropriate photo text messages, but they also had the fear that their parents would check their phone records, etc…

Youth will send things in a private internet message that they would never send in a text message. A certain amount of confidence is instilled in a young person when they know their nude picture is being sent “privately” via an Internet sight. They do not understand that once it is on the Internet, it is there forever. Not to forget, that once a young person sends a photo it is at the receiver’s disposal forever.
These photos will resurface someday, probably at the moment our young people least want them to;
job Search: Employers do social media searches of applicants, and if interviewers know where to look, no photo is impossible to find.
Politics: If a young person aspires to be a politician it is certain that every incriminating photograph they have posted WILL be found, sooner or later.
Teaching: How would a young person of this generation feel if one of their future students found a photo of them with a joint or alcohol in high school? That would ruin a teachers disciplinary credibility.

If you are the teacher of, or parent of, a young person; please, educate them. DON’T WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE 18, it may be too late. Educate them when they enter middle school (elementary school even)… and never stop reminding them.
Don’t set your child, or student, up for failure buy neglecting this lesson.

(Additionally, please don’t be offended by my statements, not all children will fall victim to this, but it could happen to anyone– even perfectly behaved 4.0 students can make a mistake.)

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