Oh, the Places They Go

Last fall Dr. Curtis’ article, Relationship Status: It’s Complicated introduced the Deerfield Academy community to the growing complexities and nuances of the vastly changing and sometimes sordid online world. “They need to care for each other and for their principles, stand firm in the face of ignorance and hate, and set an example of tolerance and inclusion.” Ironically, Dr. Curtis touched upon the very core of what life was like fifty years ago; in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement and the dreams of peace which resonated in the hearts and minds of our nation’s young people at the time. Now we are faced with an additional call to action that sometimes is galvanized into hashtag riots–it’s indeed complicated and complex and directly impacts our future generations. It’s entangled in the Internet, we think. Fifty years from now is a tabula rasa.

As a teacher of social media and digital literacy, sometimes it feels like my students are playing an endless game of Slap’em all; with every hit, another app or website pops up! It’s impossible to keep up, so I am hopeful that this article dovetails off the thoughts of Dr. Curtis and shares some information and resources that will familiarize you with the online world and how to support your teenager to successfully navigate life online.

Here’s a test that will not be graded.  See how seven thousand teens responded to a survey on the most popular social networking sites.  Can you guess the most popular–beforeclicking the link here?

Have you asked your teen how her digital footprint looks?  The easiest way is to help her see what it looks like to college counselors and potential employers: put her name–screen name–email address (or addresses) in a Google search? Comb through Google images, YouTube page(s), Instagram, Twitter, Ask.fm, Snapchat, Omegle and Facebook. It’s an exhaustive list but the best time to delete unwanted pictures, videos, comments, etc., is now! The longer it’s online the longer it stays around.

Snapchat and Ask.Fm both have extensive privacy policy statements. Snapchat’s was updated in May 2014:  “Additionally, we cannot guarantee that deletion of any message always occurs within a particular timeframe. We also cannot prevent others from making copies of your messages (e.g., by taking a screenshot).”

Ask.fm is my least favorite site because of the so-called ‘anonymity’ and the ability to interact with perfect strangers by video or chat. It’s all up to the user’s choice and this site is quite popular with today’s teens.  It’s been helpful as an educator and as a parent to have my students and children walk me through a day in the life of their online travels. You will be surprised as to how willing they are to share their life with you. Reserving comments and asking lots of questions have worked for me and going back to what will your online life be like in 50 years. Will your family be proud of what you put out there?

Five useful resources to better understand where the places our teens’ travel online:

  1. Teens Are Waging a Privacy War on the Internet — Why Marketers Should Listen by Danah Boyd  (comes via Knowledge @Wharton)
  2. Generation Like | FRONTLINE Documentary
  3. Dear Parents, Please Read This If Your Child Uses Social Media
  4. It’s real, just read high school senior Jonathan Jacob Moore’s article: Confessions of a Social Media ManiacThankfully with Facebook, I can keep people up to date on my evolving coolness. Thank God for Mark Zuckerberg.”
  5. The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information (CBS 60 MINUTES)

If you have any specific questions please feel free to email me abowllan@hewittschool.org.

Amy Bowllan is a former investigative journalist, a two-time Emmy Award winner for Broadcast Journalism and currently teaches New Media Journalism and Social Media at The Hewitt School in New York City.