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Social Media Safety 4-H Success Story

Social Media Safety workshop in Evansville, Indiana.

Because of Twitter, Facebook, and 4-H, I got to meet some great people to help spread the message of social media safety to a larger audience. As a mother of teens who have been on social media for the past 4 years, the topic is a passion of mine. I’ve presented talks to church groups and youth groups on do’s and don’ts for social media.

Last spring, as I lobbied for 4-H funding at the state and national level, I met a 4-H leader in Massachusetts on Twitter. That became a friendship on Facebook. From there, we began discussing social safety for our communities.

Tonight, that culminates in a Skyped workshop, with my giving half of it in Evansville, Indiana and a Massachusetts speaker giving the other half. If all the technical details work out, our 4-H leaders and youth who participate will get to enjoy the same workshop, at the same time, in different states and different time zones. We’ve never tried this before and hope the technical details work.

We’ve shared information and ideas, regardless of how the tech part goes.

Our 4-H pledge talks about building our club, our community, our country and our world. Tonight, Facebook and Twitter helped us take that pledge to a new level.

The workshop in Evansville is at McCullough Library, 6 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

When Social Media Safety Gets Personal

My years of training youth and youth leaders on safer approaches to social media got a personal perspective this week.

I started Facebook before my kids turned 13 so I would be ready to guide them on the rules of the social media road. The past 4 years, we’ve learned together how to parent and be parented with a Facebook twist. For years, I thought we did most things right. Not only were Richard and I our kids’ first 2 friends on Facebook, but their 3rd was a prosecutor.

This week, we had our first security incident. Within hours of 1 of my kid’s posting of a new profile photo with a new hairstyle, a private message was received. From an adult friend of a friend commenting on the new look. Sounds innocent enough until you think about it. My teen sent an email of it to me with the subject line: “screenshot stalking.”

The only way a friend of a friend could have noted the new haircut was to be searching a mutual friend’s friend list. The thumbnail shot wasn’t big enough to show the change. So the “friend of a friend” had to be actually going to my teen’s Facebook page to check it out.  Within hours of a change. And then responded to that change by private message, with an under 18 year old.

On Tuesday, September 20, the 4-H Tech Club had set a Social Media Safety workshop at McCullough Library at 6 p.m. A 4-H group from Massachusetts is planning to participate via Skype. It’s free and open to the public.

My perspective changed. As Jack Bauer sometimes said, “This is personal.”

What new safety recommendations can I make now?

  • If you have friends under 18 on Facebook, set your privacy settings so your friends don’t appear on your wall.
  • Youth under age 18, and especially youngest Facebook members should receive messages from friends only.
  • Facebook requires 13 and older to be on Facebook. Many break this rule and shouldn’t. My teens are old enough to handle a nutty stalker. What about an innocent 12 year old? Or 9 year old?

I will demonstrate how to check privacy settings at the September workshop. Hope to see you there.

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

College Prep Social Media?

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Facebook is too dangerous for college prep teens,” a student in my Facebook class told me. “We won’t let our 16 year old touch it because he might risk scholarship chances.”

Interesting proposition. I had 2 primary responses:

  1. Learning to navigate social media is like learning to drive. Parents work with their teens to teach them the rules of the road. With both, these are skills you don’t leave home knowing. It’s easier to teach your teen to use social media responsibly, under your own roof when they are younger, than to trust it happens later.
  2. I increasingly know employers who view those with NO social media presence as odd ducks and ill-equipped to interact with the modern work force. Long term, no social media presence = fewer career opportunities.

“We hired a college coach who tells his clients: NO SOCIAL MEDIA FOR COLLEGE PREP TEENS. It’s just too dangerous if they post the wrong thing,” she replied.

Frankly, I was astounded to still have this conversation in 2011. As the parent of 15 and 16 year olds, I disagree. My husband and I were their first friends on Facebook, and a friend who’s a prosecutor was their third. We monitor them and teach them to use it constructively.

But this isn’t about my opinion. What do YOU think? So I’m asking YOU, my readers. Is social media too dangerous a risk for college prep teens? Please comment below.