The Internet and social networks can be a great tool for sharing school photos and information, but it can also grow dangerous if abused. Schools and experts alike are warning parents and children to think before you post, in order to protect your privacy.
“In today’s world, everyone is connected, and anything can get copied, pasted, and sent to thousands of people in a heartbeat—which is why it’s important for parents to help their kids learn to protect their privacy,” said Caroline Knorr, parenting editor of Common Sense Media, a think-tank on kids and media issues. “The repercussions of a spur-of-the-moment picture or post could be immediately embarrassing—or come years later, affecting college or job opportunities.”
Cupertino Union School District spokesman Jeremy Nishihara says online privacy and Internet conduct is a big deal at the schools that educate students from kindergarten through eighth grade. He says district schools use a preventative and reactive model with respect to acceptable uses of the Internet on campus.
“K-8 is the district age, so our technology agreement covers a small slice of the district anyway," said Nishihara. "Our Student Acceptable Use of Technology contract is signed by both the parents and students and covers appropriate use versus inappropriate use of the Internet.”
Highlighted in that agreement is that the Internet is to be used for educational purposes only and that students must maintain complete confidentiality while online.
“We teach acceptable use and then mention the fact that students need confidentiality online," said Nishihara. "Like many things at school, the topic of online protection involves a partnership between the school and the parents."
But, he insists, there are times where what happens online at home spills on to the schoolyard.
“Anecdotally, the issues are mostly Facebook or other sites that happen offsite and spill over onto campus the next day. It could be a disruption. But we are pretty good about our character educational programs in the classroom that cover online privacy and cyber-bullying,” he said. “It’s our job to make sure the students have instructional technology tools.”
Talking to your kids about privacy and the dangers lurking online might be one of the more current issues you discuss.
Here’s advice from Common Sense Media to help kids protect their privacy:
- Explain that nothing is really private. Privacy settings aren’t infallible, so it’s up to kids to protect themselves by thinking twice before they post something that could damage their reputation or that someone else could use to embarrass or hurt them.
- Teach kids to keep personal information private.
- Make sure your kids use privacy settings on their social network pages. Encourage kids to really think about the nature of their relationships (close friends, family, acquaintances, strangers) and adjust their privacy settings accordingly.
- Remind kids to protect their friends' privacy.
- Establish a few hard-and-fast rules about posting. No nude or semi-nude photos or videos—ever—not online, not on their phones. No pictures of doing drugs, drinking or having sex.
- Help kids think long term. Everything leaves a digital footprint. Whatever gets created may never go away. If they don’t want to see it tomorrow, they'd better not post it today.