Social media has become a means to express oneself and to interact with others. Social media has expanded since the days of My Space to include many other forms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. By the end of 2016, 2.8 billion people were using social media, and 83% of Americans had a social media account. With social media taking such a prominent role in people’s lives, it is important that administrators, teachers, and parents are aware of the types of social media, the implications of social media use, the dangers of using social media, and steps to safeguard oneself and one’s children in the use of social media.
Facebook is a free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. There are over 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook, and 79% of all online U.S. adults use Facebook. The site includes public features such as:
Marketplace – allows members to post, read, and respond to classified ads.
Groups – allows members who have common interests to find each other and interact.
Events – allows members to publicize an event, invite guests, and track who plans to attend.
Pages – allows members to create and promote a public page built around a specific topic.
Presence technology – allows members to see which contacts are online and instantly chat.
There are several key networking components:
The Wall, which is essentially a virtual bulletin board of messages from the member of friends of the member. Messages left on a member’s Wall can be text, video or photos.
The virtual Photo Album – Photos can be uploaded from the desktop or directly from a smartphone. There is no limitation on quantity, but Facebook staff will remove inappropriate or copyrighted images. An interactive album feature allows the member’s contacts to comment on each other’s photos and identify or “tag” people in the photos, which will be added to the tagged person’s photo album.
Status updates – a feature that allows members to broadcast short Twitter-like announcements to their friends. All interactions are published in a news feed, which is distributed in real-time to the member’s friends.
News Feed – this feature pulls relevant posts and ads and puts them all in one place on the Facebook “home” page. What is posted is determined by the member’s clicks, likes, or comments on certain posts and pages, and are compiled on one page.
Payments through Messenger – a member can send or receive payments for items through the messenger option of the account. This is great option for online, personal businesses.
Privacy Options – Members can make their communications visible to everyone, they can block specific connections, or they can keep all their communications private. Members can choose whether or not to be searchable, decide which parts of their profile are public, decide what not to put in their news feed, determine exactly who can see their posts, and what posts and pictures they are tagged in. Members can use hashtags (#) and location-based geotags to index their posts and make them searchable by other users within the app, based on their privacy constrictions. For those members who wish to use Facebook to communicate privately, there is a messenger feature. The privacy settings are easy to change and monitor under the settings section of Facebook. It is important that Facebook users periodically check their privacy settings and modify them as necessary.
Instagram, aka “IG,” aka “the gram,” is an online photo-sharing application. Instagram operates similarly to Twitter but with the posts being photos and videos. Instagram has 800 million monthly users. Instagram offers a variety of filters and editing tools for users to implement on their photos and videos, making a camera-phone photo look more professional.
Users can add a caption to each of their posts and use hashtags and location-based geotags to index these posts and make them searchable by other users within the app. Each post by a user appears on their followers’ Instagram feeds, similar to Facebook and Twitter, and can also be viewed by the public when tagged using hashtags (#) or location-based geotags. Users also have the option of making their profile private so that only their followers can view their posts.
As with other social networking platforms, Instagram users can like, comment on, and bookmark others’ posts, as well as send private messages to their friends via the Instagram Direct feature. Photos can be shared on one or several other social media sites – including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Users have the ability to send private messages and share videos and photos privately, as well.
Instagram also has a feature for users to post a “story,” similar to Snap Chat, consisting of photos and videos posted by the user, which remain available for a 24-hour period.
Twitter allows members to provide frequent updates to people about their lives by allowing them to broadcast tweets (140-character messages) and follow other members’ tweets. Twitter has over 300 million monthly users. Members’ tweets may also include hyperlinks that refer to other web pages, articles, photos, etc. Tweets can be delivered to followers in real time and are searchable by the public. Anyone can search Twitter, whether a member or not.
The default settings for Twitter are public. Unlike Facebook, where members need to approve social connections, anyone can follow anyone on Twitter.
Snap Chat is a mobile app that allows users to send and receive disappearing photos or videos called snaps. Snap chat has over 175 million daily active users and is the most popular social media app for users aged 13-24. The app allows the sender to draw or insert text on the snap and determine how many seconds (1 to 10) the recipient can view it before the file disappears from the recipient’s device.
To take a photo in Snapchat, simply tap the capture button while the camera is active. To take a video, hold down the button for a few seconds to record a short clip. Once you’ve captured your photo or video, you can swipe right or left to apply filters or add other effects. You can tap the “T” icon in the upper right to add text and tap the pencil icon to select a color and draw on your snap before sending it. If you’re taking a selfie, you can press and hold on your face before capturing the shot. This will allow the app to detect your face and you can apply a variety of effects to your selfie before sending it. Snapchat allows you to send snaps directly to specific friends or share them with all your friends by adding them to your “Story.”
Messages can only be viewed once, but there is a function that allows the viewer to replay the snap once more. Those viewers who choose to replay the snaps are indicated in the sender’s app. The recipient may also send a message back to the sender regarding the snap. Additionally, a snap may be screenshotted and saved by any recipient. If a screenshot has been taken of a user’s snap, the user will be alerted that the snap has been screenshotted. Although some believe the snaps are permanently removed from Snap Chat, they are not.
It is important that parents monitor a child’s social media account and to be aware of the dangers that social media poses.
Cyber safety is a growing concern for parents. Since social media is ever evolving, it can be difficult to keep up with the changes, and children are often quicker to adapt to the changes in social media and to learn the new features. It is important that parents monitor a child’s social media account and to be aware of the dangers that social media poses.
Whether you are a child or an adult, there is a continuing concern of predators on social networking sites. Predators include, but are not limited to, sexual predators, hackers, and identity thieves. Additionally, be aware of “catfishing.” Catfishing is the process of befriending strangers online while using a fake or stolen identity. There are approximately 270 million Facebook accounts that are fraudulent or duplicate. It is important to always be cognizant of security risks associated with social media, which include:
Information about your location – geotagging or “check-ins.”
Personal information – work, birthdate, phone number, address, and email address.
Pictures you post – photos of you, your home, or your vehicle. Do not post that you will be out of town or post photos while you are away. This broadcasts that your home is empty and leaves your home susceptible to break-ins.
Links – avoid clicking on links in messages, tweets, posts, and online advertising. These may be links to viruses or other forms of malicious content.
Third-party apps – Polls, quizzes and games are often a fun part of some social networking websites, but by signing up to these, you may be giving the companies who create them permission to access your profile. Use the privacy settings of your social networking website to avoid this.
In order to protect yourself, set all profiles to private so that only friends are able to see your posts and permission is required to become your friend on a social media account. Make yourself aware of what is visible to others on your social media accounts so that you are cognizant of what can others can learn about you from your social media account. Be sure to use strong passwords and usernames that do not divulge personal information. Make sure that your username isn’t self-identifying – don’t use your birthdate, full name, etc. Make sure that you have a password that is at least 8 characters with a variety of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols and use different passwords for different accounts. It is important to not only create a strong password but to also keep your passwords secret. Further, do not allow others to use your account. If there is reason to believe that your account has been compromised, report the problem and change the password. Be aware of and take advantage of the security features available on the different types of social media accounts. Facebook has a two-factor authentication available for all accounts. Two-factor authentication is a security feature that helps protect your Facebook account in addition to your password. If you set up two-factor authentication, you’ll be asked to enter a special security code or confirm your login attempt each time someone tries accessing Facebook from a computer or mobile device that is not recognized. Additionally, you can receive alerts when someone tries logging in from a computer that or mobile device that is not recognized by Facebook.
Guidelines to keep your children safe
Monitor your children’s use of the Internet on the computer and cell phone.
Implement settings on all computers that restrict what websites can be visited.
Regularly check your children’s profiles and what they post online. An easy way to do this is to require them to add you as a friend/contact to any social media account that they have.
Check the social media contacts frequently to make sure that your child knows the contact and that they are an appropriate contact for your child’s age.
Read and follow the safety tips provided on the online sites.
Report inappropriate activity to the website and/or law enforcement immediately.
Only allow your children to post photos or any type of personally identifying information on websites with your knowledge and consent.
Visit social networking websites with your children, and exchange ideas about acceptable versus potentially risky websites.
Make it a rule with your children that they can never give out personal information or meet anyone in person without prior knowledge and consent. If you agree to a meeting between your child and someone he or she meets online, talk to the parents/guardians of the other individual first and accompany your child to the meeting in a public place.
Encourage your children to consider whether a message is harmful, dangerous, hurtful, or rude before posting or sending it online, and teach your children not to respond to any rude or harassing remarks or messages that make them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and to show the messages to you instead.
Educate yourself on the websites, software, and apps that your child uses.
Talk to your children about why it is important to not disclose personal information online. Talk about what could happen and what to look for when communicating with others online.
Explain to your children that once images are posted online, they lose control of them and can never get them back. Explain how others can copy their photos and videos and use them however they want.
Discuss privacy settings and the importance of using privacy settings on various social media applications.
Discuss why it is important to only add friends or contacts that they actually know.
Discuss the dangers of cyber predators and how to protect oneself from such predators.
Apps that help monitor activities
There are many apps available to monitor people’s activities. Many of them were created from the purpose of monitoring family members for safety and for social networking. It is important to be aware that the same apps can be used for the opposite effect and may put many users at risk. The following is a description of some of the apps that can be used to monitor activities, but this list is in no means exhaustive of all of the apps that are available:
Find my Friends. Just like location services on your Google maps app, it can show you where other people are—assuming they have given permission to be located. Each friend the person is tracking will show up on the map as a separate dot, with distance in miles by their name. It’ll automatically refresh as they move, and directions can be given to the individual’s location. When using this app be sure to explicitly accept an invitation. The following safeguards exist in this app: (1) the user may become temporarily invisible, by switching on “Hide from Followers” under the accounts tab, which will take them off the grid until switched off; (2) you can also follow someone temporarily, using the “Temporary” tab. From the Temporary tab, the user can invite friends and set the location sharing to expire at a certain time. Once expired, the friends are removed from the app; and (3) the user has to sign in to the app each time that it is accessed, unless the device’s Passcode Lock is enabled. This feature gives people being tracked a margin of safety if someone other than the owner of the phone uses the device.
The app lets you locate your friends and family via GPS. This app is free to download, never asks you for an email address, and does not connect with your Facebook or Google account. To create an account, you only need to supply your name and phone number. When a user broadcasts his or her location, the contacts will see the user moving in real-time on his or her own app. Anyone can stop broadcasting the location at the push of a button, making it easy to go “off the grid” for a period of time. The apps “Places” feature lets the user save regularly frequented locations—such as homes, offices, and schools. The user will get a notification every time one of his or her contacts has arrived at the specified destination. The user can even organize contacts into groups, such as “Friends” or “Family.” This feature enables a user to broadcast his or her location to one group while appearing offline to another. The app also offers a panic button, private chat, and shared photo albums.
This app allows you to share your location in real time with people that you trust. This app is geared towards temporary sharing as each “Glympse” only lasts for the maximum of four hours at a time. There are two features that have made this app particularly popular in work places: (1) Request – users can ask for a Glympse of someone, ideal for finding the location of a person who’s late for a meeting; and (2) Open Sharing – users can share the user’s Glympse with anyone as the receiver does not need to have the app installed on his or her own device. The app comes with built-in messaging tools for instantly getting in touch with other users, and it also offers a web interface in case a user is ever stuck somewhere without his or her phone.
Foursquare Swarm: Check in. Swarm is an app that allows users to share their locations with their friends and create a record of their experiences in a personal life log. This app treats location tracking like a game, which is enticing to many people. The more places the user checks in to, the more points he or she earns. The app displays the score on leaderboard alongside all of the users. If a user wants to share his or her location, he or she can “Check In” to a specific venue and this location will be shared with their friends. A user’s location is never shared publicly – it is only ever shared with friends, unless a user chooses to share his or her check in with Twitter and/or Facebook. Users can also check in “off-the-grid” if they want to check in to a venue privately. The app does not offer real-time updates like Familonet and Glympse. The app has an integrated messaging app that lets users, once they have checked in, send messages to nearby users so that they coordinate their plans even if they don’t have the other users’ phone numbers.
Geozilla Family GPS Locator. This app allows users to broadcast their location to all of their social networks with a simple tap. Users can also sync any check-ins they make on Facebook and Foursquare Swarm back into the app. One of the app’s strongest features is its location history. It’s perfect for retracing steps if a user has lost something or wants to recall where he or she went on a particular day.
a history of every nook and cranny an individual has searched on the internet or has shared by way of social media sites and other information sharing sites.
A digital footprint is a history of every nook and cranny an individual has searched on the internet or has shared by way of social media sites and other information sharing sites. Once and individual puts something, it is on there for good. Controlling one’s digital footprint is important for all individuals that engage in some form of social media interaction.
Six Tips for Controlling Your Digital Footprint
Search yourself on Google, Yahoo, and other search engines and clean up anything that doesn’t put you in a positive light.
Utilize the settings on the various social media pages that allows the ability for others to search you. For example, Facebook has an option where makes it so a person can only friend you if you have a mutual friend in common.
Minimize the photos and other information about you that is available to the public. Make sure that you understand the privacy settings for the different forms of social media. It is important to set restrictions on who can view the content on your social media, not only for purposes of protecting your digital footprint, but for safety reasons as well. Your social media can reveal where you live, work, eat, sleep, and drink.
Keep your pictures and posts appropriate.
Control how you are tagged in posts and photos that other people post. Put restrictions in place, so that someone does not tag you in a post or post pictures of you without your permission.
Always remember the three “W’s”—who, what, and why. Who is your audience that your posts or photos will reach on your social media account? What is the message of your posts or photos? Why are you putting it on your social media account?
Social media sites have increased the avenues in which individuals can bully others. Social media bullying can often be done anonymously.
Cyberbullying means “bullying that is done through the use of any electronic communication device, including through the use of a cellular or other type of telephone, a computer, a camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text, a social media application, and internet website, or any other internet-based communication tool”.
When can a student be removed from a class or expelled for bullying?
A student may be removed from class and placed in a disciplinary alternative education program or expelled if the student: (1) engages in bullying that encourages another student to commit or attempt to commit suicide; (2) incites violence against another student through group bullying; or (3) releases or threatens to release intimate visual material as defined in the Civil Practices and Remedies Code §98B.001 of a minor or a student who is 18 years of age or older without the student’s consent. Additionally, the school can report a finding of intimate visual material of a minor to authorities.
 Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §129A.002(a)
What type of injunctive relief is available?
A court may issue a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or permanent injunction to prevent further cyberbullying. The injunctive relief may order that the individual not engage in cyberbullying or compel a parent to take actions to prevent the bully from engaging in cyberbullying.
 Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §129A. 002(b)
What is injunctive relief?
Injunctive relief, or an injunction, is a court order requiring a person to do or refrain from doing a specified act.
How do you obtain an injunction?
Generally, the first step to obtaining an injunction is to file suit in the county where the individual wants to seek injunctive relief. This will likely be the county in which the individual lives. An individual must file a petition stating why he or she needs the injunctive relief and support the petition by a sworn affidavit (an affidavit signed before a notary) that details the cyberbullying facts and lays out the facts to support the request for injunctive relief. The individual or his or her lawyer must then approach the court, which is generally outside the presence of the defendant or the defendant’s lawyer, to seek a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), meant to protect the individual or the minor student from the cyberbullying and any further harm. The judge will review the petition and affidavit to determine whether to grant the temporary relief. Unlike other TROs, it is not necessary to plead or prove that immediate and irreparable harm will occur before the court can issue an order without notice to the defendant. To obtain the injunctive relief under David’s Law, the individual only has to show a likelihood of success in establishing that the defendant was cyberbullying the minor student. The relief may be granted against the alleged bully as well as the parents of the alleged bully.
David’s Law also requires the Texas Supreme Court to promulgate forms written in English and in Spanish to assist the public in obtaining injunctive relief under the statute. Unfortunately, those forms are not yet available.
When will a temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order be granted?
A temporary restraining order will be granted against the individual if the individual being bullied can show that they will likely be successful in proving that the individual was engaged in cyberbullying. A temporary restraining order or permanent restraining order will be granted if it is proven that the individual was engaged in cyberbullying.
What is the criminal punishment for cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying will be considered a Class A misdemeanor if the offense was committed against a child less than 18 with the intent that the child commit suicide or engage in conduct causing serious bodily injury to the child or the individual committing the cyberbullying previously violated a temporary restraining order or temporary injunction.
In keeping current with social trends, most social media companies have put more effort and definition in their Community Guidelines. These guidelines are in place to in an effort to make everyone feel safe within the platform. However, violations of these terms and conditions can result in some serious consequences ranging from deletion of content, to lengthy legal battles. The following suggestions can help you to be safe & secure with your social media accounts, thus keeping your digital footprint visible:
Make sure ALL of your accounts are secure – be sure to have two-factor authentication enabled in your login settings. This is important because it will alert you when another device attempts to log into your account. Hacker skill levels have been increasing rapidly through the years, but so has the technology to combat them. In addition to this, be mindful of logging into untrusted 3rd-party websites with your social media accounts (i.e. quizzes/surveys that would require you to log in with your Facebook or Twitter account) as this is how most accounts get hacked.
Review your Privacy Settings and adjust them accordingly – be aware of what you are sharing and how public it can be. Do you want your content to be visible to just the people you know, or do you want it to be visible to anyone that can search your name/info? You also need to avoid sharing too much of your direct contact information with the general public. Most social media profiles make your email and phone number visible, unless you set it otherwise. In addition to the contact information, profiles can also list where you work which can lead to unsolicited contact.
Be wise of what and where you post content – with the rise of combatting bullying and hate speech, most social media companies have started to really enforce their Community Guidelines in the content their users are posting. If content is reported and taken down, you can face punishments of loss of features/access or even the loss of your entire account depending on the severity. It is also good to know that many countries have different laws on what is considered to be bullying/hate speech/harassment, with some countries allowing you to take serious legal action for something as small as saying, “I hate John Doe because he is an imbecile.”
Be careful of how quickly you post content – posting too quickly and too frequently can flag you as a spammer. Once you are designated as a spammer, it can be difficult to appeal the designation.
Intellectual Property is a very fickle thing. With the new features/technology on how you can share content (live broadcast or video uploads), you should be cautious about the potential intellectual property violations. A lot of the recent software that is associated with uploading media now has the function to scan the content for copywritten music and/or video. Some software can even pick up on the background music and will block you from uploading/sharing it. Intellectual property is also something to be conscious of if you are selling items through peer2peer sales. Using phrases such as “Replica Prada Bag” or “Fake Oakley Sunglasses” can have your content taken down as well. You can also be permanently stripped of your account for too many infractions when it comes to intellectual property, due to the serious legal sensitivity of the issues. Further, there is potential that more severe legal action can be taken against including copyright infringement, patent infringement, and trademark infringement.
If you see something, say something. If you see something that could violate the rules of the platform, go ahead and report it through their channels of reporting. This helps to continue to keep the platform safe, helps to improve the reporting process, and helps to improve online content policies. Do not be afraid to report any behavior on social media that you find unacceptable. Reporting of such behavior helps monitor bullying, infringing actions, child pornography, and other behaviors that can have negative consequences.
Things that can have your social media account taken down:
intellectual property violations
sexual content (nudity, exploitation, revenge porn, solicitation, engagement with minors)
spam and scams
locally illegal content
regulated goods (drugs/alcohol/firearms)
Exchange of Sexual Communications – Sexting
According to recent research by Dr. Jeff Temple, associate professor and psychologist at University of Texas Medical Branch, anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of teens will send or receive an explicit text. By college, that number is around 50 percent. And 70 percent of teen girls have been asked to send a naked picture of themselves. Teens who sext are substantially more likely to be sexually active. Indeed, in yet another study published in the journal of Pediatrics, Dr. Temple found that teens who sexted were more likely to be sexually active over the next year, regardless of prior sexual history. Dr. Temple’s research has found that sexting, though something to be concerned about, has become today’s new “first base.”
What is “sexting”?
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photographs, or videos primarily between mobile phones — Texas law also includes any “electronic means,” which includes computers and other digital devices.
How does a person send a “sext” to another person?
Typically, the sender of the sext will send the provocative message through text message. However, there are various apps on smart phones that allow pictures to be sent through that app.
What are some of the apps that “sexts” could be sent to?
There are an ever-evolving number of apps that could be used. Currently, apps like Snapchat, KIK, Instagram, and Twitter are the apps that are used to send sexts. Teenagers could also use file sharing apps to send pictures of videos of themselves (file sharing apps include dropbox, google drive, etc.).
Is sexting between teenagers illegal?
In general, a teenager is illegally engaging in sexting if he/she – knowingly or on purpose – sends, shows or keeps a picture or video of a minor – including of himself/herself – engaging in “sexual conduct.”
What are the consequences and penalties for sexting?
Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.261, it is possible for a minor to be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony offense for possession or promotion of child pornography, depending upon the circumstances.
Class C misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500.00. A person can be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor for sexting promotion or possession if it is a first-time offense, and the person is a minor who is not a child.
Class B misdemeanor: A fine up to $2,000.00, 180 days in jail, or both. A person can be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor for sexting if the person is a minor and the person: (1) promoted visual material with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend someone; or (2) has previously been convicted for sexting.
Class A misdemeanor: A fine up to $4,000.00, one year in jail, or both. A person can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor for sexting if the person is a minor and the person: (1) has previously been convicted one or more times of promoting the visual material with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend someone; or (2) has previously been convicted for general sexting promotion or possession two or more times.
Third degree felony: A fine not to exceed $10,000.00 and at least two years in prison, but no more than 10 years. A person can be charged with a third degree felony for possession of child pornography if the person is at least 18 years old.
Second degree felony: A fine not to exceed $10,000 and at least 2 years in prison, but no more than 20 years. A person can be charged with a second degree felony for promotion of child pornography as either a minor or as an adult.
What is the difference between "promotion" and "possession" as used in the law regarding sexting?
The law uses the terms “promotion” and “possession” when referring to sending and keeping illegal “visual material.” While “possession” simply means keeping a picture or video, the term “promotion,” according to the law, also means manufacture, sell, give, lend, transmit, publish, distribute, present, or exhibit.
What happens if a student is an 18 year old senior dating a 14 year old freshman and sexting occurs?
As an 18 year old high school senior, the student may be charged and convicted of felony possession of child pornography if the person the senior is dating is under 18 years old and sends the senior sexting images and the senior has them on his/her phone or computer. The offense of possession is complete upon receipt of the images and is a third degree felony. The senior could be charged with a second degree felony if the senior showed the sexting image or sent the sexting image to another person (such as a friend).
What should I do if I find out my child has received or sent a sext?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following:
Talk to your kids, even if the issue hasn’t directly impacted your community. “Have you heard of sexting?” “Tell me what you think it is.” For the initial part of the conversation, it is important to first learn what your child’s understanding is of the issue and then add to it an age appropriate explanation (see next bullet).
Use examples appropriate for your child’s age. For younger children with cell phones who do not yet know about sex, alert them that text messages should never contain pictures of people–kids or adults–without their clothes on, kissing or touching each other in ways that they’ve never seen before. For older children, use the term “sexting” and give more specifics about sex acts they may know about. For teens, be very specific that “sexting” often involves pictures of a sexual nature and is considered pornography.
Make sure kids of all ages understand that sexting is serious and considered a crime. In all communities, if they “sext,” there will be serious consequences, quite possibly involving the police, suspension from school, and notes on the sexter’s permanent record that could hurt his/her chances of getting into college or getting a job.
Experts have noted that peer pressure can play a major role in the sending of texts, with parties being a major contributing factor. Collecting cell phones at gatherings of tweens and teens is one way to reduce this temptation.
Monitor headlines and the news for stories about “sexting” that illustrate the very real consequences for both senders and receivers of these images. “Have you seen this story?” “What did you think about it?” “What would you do if you were this child?” Rehearse ways they can respond if asked to participate in inappropriate texting.
10 Tips on Ways that Parents can Stay Involved in A Child's Social Media
Do not let your child under the age of 13 have a social media account.
Parents should become familiar with the various social media platforms that their children are using – such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.
Check the privacy setting on your child’s phone and/or computer. There are apps and software that allow you to block certain social media sites or monitor your child’s social media use.
Create clear ground rules for use of social media.
Go to the social media platform that your child is using and set up your own profile. After that, “add” or “friend” your child on the social media platform. Make sure your child has accepted your request to “add” or “friend” him/her. Remind your child in person to accept your request.
Tell your child that they cannot create another profile or account to circumvent you. Make sure your child does not create another account so that you cannot see what he/she posts. On Instagram teenagers are creating “Finstas” or fake Instagram accounts; the real Instagram is the PG version that they don’t mind their parents seeing and the Finsta account is for their friends’ eyes only. Inform your child that he/she is not allowed to have any fake or secondary social media accounts and that he/she must tell you about every social media account he/she has.
Be sure your child understands that anything, and everything, posted through social media will become public – permanently. Too often you hear the excuse, “I didn’t know everyone could see it!” Remind your child that if he or she wouldn’t say it, or show it to others, don’t post it.
Remind your child that his/her friend’s social media posts are not always indicative of that person’s life. In other words, we only see a person’s “best of” on social media accounts. This is important to stress to your child because your child could feel left out or feel like his/her friends have the “best lives” and are always “having fun.” Moreover, your child could get depressed seeing everyone else’s social media posts. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the impact of social media on children, adolescents and families, cites that ‘Facebook depression’ is one of the risk factors that teens may face with overexposure to social media. Facebook depression is an affliction that results from establishing a presence on social networking sites, spending a great deal of time on these sites and then feeling unaccepted among peers online. Although the study termed this affliction “Facebook depression,” the more appropriate term would be “social media depression” as this can happen through any social media platform.
Be aware of your school district’s policy regarding social media. For example, the school district and your school may have rules and guidelines in place regarding status updates, pictures that may be posted, and who you can friend.
Think of your social media accounts as a digital resume. Do your social media accounts present an image of you that you would want your employer, future employer, parents of students, or students to see? If not, you may want to delete old pictures and post and become more aware of the items that you post or are tagged in.
Do not send students private messages on social media.
Do not post negative or derogatory comments about your job, students, or parents of students. You never know who may be looking at your social media accounts.
Do not post your students names or pictures of your students without prior consent.
Make sure you enable your privacy settings to “friends only”.
Do not post inflammatory comments, illegal activities, discriminatory, or offensive posts on your social media accounts. There have been instances where teachers have lost their jobs because of what they posted on their social media accounts.
You are what you tweet, post, like, and share. Don’t share, like, or post something that will create a poor representation of you. When in doubt, don’t post.
Before posting on social media T.H.I.N.K! Is it True? Is it Helpful? It is Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?
This project was made possible thanks to a generous grant from the Texas Bar Foundation