Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What I'm reading: Cyber mistakes

From a book of advice to internet-savvy young girls on dealing with bullies, cliques, popularity, and jealousy (it's good advice for young boys, too):

IM and Email: Clicking Your Way Through a Fight...

Fighting on IM is a huge mistake....You can't hear her tone of voice...Unfortunately you couldn't hear that she was just kidding...behind that blinking box, your "friend" could be three or four people cutting and pasting your conversation to three other people, who send it on to their friends, and so on...

Don't, don't, don't give out your password. Do you give out your locker combination? House key? Diary location? So why are you telling people how to break into your account? Because that's what a lot of girls will do when they get mad. Angry girls will hijack your screen name and send e-mails and IMs to guys acting like they are you. They will subscribe you to porn sites. They will enroll you in crazy spam schemes. They will send notes to other girls about things you never said. You can avoid that risk entirely by keeping your password to yourself, or at least changing it when you get in a fight with someone.

IM and e-mail are like passing notes or writing on the bathroom wall. They are inadequate, impersonal tools of communication. When you have a problem with someone and need to resolve it, nothing will ever replace the experience of two open eyes and a firm, respectful voice.

[From Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons, Harcourt Books (2004).]

Kids these days have to learn to negotiate the internet and relationships via the internet while they are still kids, with little life experience of human nature (or the possible inhuman nature of internet interactions) to guide them. I tell my children to consider nothing they do on the computer to be private, as you don't know where your words or actions on the internet may eventually turn up, or how they may be tracked or replicated. Anything you type, IM, send, or blog today may come back to haunt you in the years ahead.

It is hard for a kid to understand longevity. I just tell mine: Do and say nothing on the computer you wouldn't like to see on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper, for everyone to see and know about you. Yes, even when posting or surfing (supposedly) anonymously, keep your computer use that transparent and disciplined, and you will not end up hurt and crying about it someday. In the meantime, you are practicing discipline and integrity, two invaluable character traits.

And as we all know, until youngsters get older, smarter, wiser and better at choosing their friends, a "friend" today may become an enemy tomorrow. In the old days, youngsters (and adults) didn't have to deal with such mistakes becoming a permanent part of the internet.

Kids beware, and parents, teach your kids.

Safety programs for kids and parents:

Internet Superheroes

WiredKids.org

NetSmartz

Learn more:

"How Blogging Can Impact Your Job Search"

"Battling MySpace.com and Teen Naivete"

"Some Employers Now Search Online Profiles"

"National elections could be a lot more interesting in 20 years..."

"Employers, Police Joining Facebook"

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