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Don’t Private Message My Friends Unless They Are Also Your Friends | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Don’t Private Message My Friends Unless They Are Also Your Friends

As a youth leader, social media safety for youth is important to me. As a mother of teens, it’s personal. Thanks to my guest blogger today, Daniel R. Miller, who discusses private messaging safety. His guest blog today:

            Social media has become a very useful tool for adults who are involved in youth organizations.  Young people may have email accounts, but they don’t read their emails.  Most of them, however, are on Facebook, and many of them are on there a lot.  If an adult wants to get a message to a young person, quickly and effectively, Facebook is the way to do it.

            This privilege, however, should be subject to some limitations.  I do not solicit friendship on Facebook from youth under 18; that’s creepy.  On the other hand, I accept friendships from young people with whom I already have an association:  my 4-H club and my Sunday school class, for example.  Also, private groups on Facebook do not require that I maintain Facebook friend status with young people.  I can reach the entire membership by posting to the group.

            Private messaging my youthful friends is something I do sparingly and always with a legitimate purpose in mind:  a reminder to complete a specific task, or a response to a query about a 4-H project.  Also, I rarely private message a youthful friend – or even send an email – without also sending a copy to his or her parent.  (I’ve learned that the parental influence is an effective motivation for completion of a task.)  A parent needs to know I am talking to his child.

            What concerns me now is the potential of adult friends on my Facebook page private messaging my young friends.  That’s creepy.  Don’t do it.  If a young person’s photo appears on my page, don’t private message her to tell her how good she looks.  As innocent as your intentions might be, she might be creeped out.  Worse yet, she might not, and be further lured into a relationship with someone who does not have her best interests in mind.  And just as bad, you can be accused of trolling my Facebook page to groom young people for exploitation.  Unless you are already friends with my friends, do not private message them.

            I suspect that this has already happened with my page, but I can’t prove it.  If I find out you have done this, I will unfriend you.  I already have my privacy protections set so that the general public cannot see who my friends are.  In the coming days, I will be reviewing and revising my privacy protections to further protect the youthful friends on my page.  If in the future you cannot see all the friends on my page, you now know why.

Daniel R. Miller is a deputy prosecutor in Warrick County, Indiana

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