If the results of the recent PEW study entitled "Teens, Social Media and Privacy," are any indication, teenagers are getting in tune with today's digital times regarding security and privacy. Teens are realizing that there isn't a rewind button on their keyboards (or the Internet), and that means their posts, photos, and comments need to be chosen carefully, since they will most likely live forever.
Some parents are behind their kids (especially their young adult children), when it comes to social networking sites like Facebook. Many parents joined Facebook long after their teens were already well-established. Parents, especially empty nesters, have found it is a great way to keep up with their young adult children's lives, their friends, families and even meet new virtual friends.
We are our children's role models -- both online and off, but what happens when the child watches the parent have a complete cyber-breakdown? What happens when a parent doesn't live by the advice they would probably give their own child when it comes to online conduct and suddenly has a Facebook wall full of fire and ice? Who is monitoring the parent?
Recently, I was intrigued by a real-life soap opera unraveling on Facebook, which made me realize that teens are not the only ones risking their online reputations. I found myself wanting to share this since I think so many parents could learn from it. There comes a time when you need to take things offline. It is that simple, and this was one of those times.
Let's hit pause for a moment to look at the online world from an adult perspective.
Online dating has become a fast and growing way for people to meet each other. Of course, as with everything online, you need to be cautious. By now everyone has heard of the Catfish stories and no one wants to become a victim of that scenario.
We teach our children to beware of strangers both online and off. We know there are risks when we go into chat rooms. We are adults and our life experiences should give us more common sense when it comes to the difficult situations we sometimes face online.
Now fast-forward to the Facebook drama I witnessed as it played out:
- Single mom meets a man through an online dating service.
- Mom falls madly in love and her Facebook wall is full of glorious posts and photos of her happiness and romance. She claims she has found her soul mate.
- Only a few weeks later, she moves in with Mr. Wonderful.
- Honeymoon is over -- after a quick whirlwind relationship of less than two months it is now history.
- Mom goes on her Facebook wall in one of the nastiest campaigns against this man you have ever seen -- anger, hate, venom and even speaking of his sexual inadequacies on her wall. (For the record, I did check the man's Facebook page, it was quiet there, no malice was ever written.)
- Her friends (not sure if they are real or virtual) are all chiming in about what a dog he is. But do they actually know him? Yet this malicious and contentious Facebook page is full of the most cruel and vindictive comments. So reminiscent of high school drama that it made me wonder if high school kids still act like this.
One thing is for sure: This took place on a public forum, the Internet. On Facebook. In fact, I am not even friends with this person on Facebook, however, since we have mutual friends and her privacy settings left her exposed for anyone to see, I was able to watch this relationship go from lust, to love to hatred in a matter of weeks. Who am I? A nobody, not even a fake Facebook friend.
Like in most break-ups, there are always three sides to every story -- hers, his and the truth. The mom in this situation is not a teenager, she's almost 50 and should know better. For those wondering, her kids are young adults. This begs the question: Should her kids have played interference and told her to stop ranting online? I am not here to judge, only here to give the moral of this story, which is about censoring yourself in your online postings.
You should not air your dirty laundry publicly. You should have your circle of friends you can speak with (hopefully on the phone or over coffee or drinks) and not post your grievances online.
Why? Because the Internet is lacking in privacy and Facebook is a public forum, not a diary!
What we teach our kids:
• Be kind online.
• What goes online, stays online.
• Respect each other always, online and off.
Maybe we need to start preaching this to adults too?
The Internet is the largest tattooing machine, and, unfortunately for people that are learning this the hard way, there is no rewind button on the Internet, either.
• Parents make the same mistakes kids do.
• Not understanding the virtual environment is not an excuse for acting immature. It is time to grow up and learn how to use social media in an appropriate manner.
• Don't use Facebook as your venting machine.
• Buy a journal or a diary. Use your pen, not a keyboard.
• Your children are watching your keystrokes.
• Practice what you preach. Is this the same behavior your want your children to mimic?
Facebook is not a diary. It is that simple.