Straight Talk Advice

Sep 07, 2011

Facebook: It’s amazing who’s looking at your posts!

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: When are kids going to learn that anything posted on the Internet is potentially exposed to the world? As a hiring manager, I am floored by the number of applicants who post the most incriminating things on their site: binge drinking, Schedule 1 drug abuse, excessively foul language, degrading comments about women (and men), indecent exposure, tales of academic cheating, lying, speeding, texting while driving — even documentation of themselves out having a good time when they’ve called in sick! Actually, I should thank them; it makes my job easier. — Pasadena, Calif.

Katie 18, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

Privacy on the Internet is an illusion. Everything you delete that was once online is still accessible if you know your way around a computer. Most kids don’t realize that. They post idiotic things hoping to look cool. Well, those “cool” drinking and drug photos have gotten entire sports teams suspended and resulted in criminal charges. Still, nobody listens. But, hey, look at the environment kids are in! Peer pressure really is a big factor.

I grew up with a computer-savvy parent and have seen how nothing is private. I know how to pull up anything on Facebook, even posts and photos deleted months earlier. It takes time, but it’s possible. In addition, a simple screen shot can capture everything, or if someone is online you can hack through barriers and see their screen as they’re using it. People don’t realize the dangers.

Justin 24, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

I’m always very careful about what I put online. The Internet is forever. I don’t know where I’ll be in 20 years and I don’t want to be held back because I posted pictures of myself doing a “body shot” when I was 19 [of alcohol off someone’s cleavage or belly button].

Elise 19, Orlando, Florida Ask me a question

Here’s the test: if you wouldn’t be comfortable having your mom or grandma see a picture or a post, it shouldn’t go up.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

The mindset today is that people should butt out, live and let live. Freedom of speech, right? It’s as if no one has any honor or common sense anymore. Thankfully that mindset makes life easier for the rest of us by flagging the type of person to avoid! Personal rules of thumb: you can have opinions about people, but if those opinions are negative, they’re probably best left unsaid; you can have opinions about things, but don’t attack the person behind the thing.

Geoff 25, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

Honestly, I scrutinize everything I post. But many teens are naive. The real issue is that everything in the tech world has occurred so quickly and there is no formal education around social media. Both adults and kids are getting an unguided hard-knocks education. Bottom line: we need more technology education.

DEAR PASADENA: The more young people hear your message, the more it might sink in. I agree with Geoff. We really need tech education around social media. We’ve got young people roaming this “global village” naive to the dangers, not only from predators, sex-sellers and bullies, but from their own hand! Like Katie says, peer pressure is real, and has much to do with showing off and over-sharing. Less-than-genius showing off has long been the talent of adolescents — it’s just that before, every dumb thing we did or said wasn’t captured on a screen for public viewing into perpetuity. These times do require adaptation. Teens and twenties: when it comes to posting, be smart, be kind. Whether it’s on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or Formspring, hiring managers, colleges, and law enforcement can look at or trace these posts if they want to. Even worse in my mind, lots of little kids see them, and want to be like you.

Editor’s Note: A recent study by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse shows that 70 percent of surveyed teens spent daily time on a social network. And 40 percent had seen photos of kids “drunk, passed out, or using drugs.” Half of those reported seeing such photos at age 13 or younger.

Teens, college students, young adults: another reason to be smart about what you post is that younger kids are looking at your site. You wouldn’t do this stuff in front of them, so don’t put it in front of them on Facebook. They look up to you! Please use your head and adapt to the technology.

Parents: please talk to your young children and teens about what they see, have seen, or will see on the Internet and give them consistent role modeling and messages (at the very least the messages!) to avoid drugs, alcohol, and pornography regardless of peer pressure. Yes, these things are mainstream, but they are addictive and have tremendous negative impact on quality of life. They are also avoidable with the right guidance. —Lauren

  1. By Barbara Sammartano, age , from Reno, NV on 09/07/2011

    All parents should be looking at the thins their childreno post on the internet just as they would know whose home they are going to and who they are hanging with.  The problem is so many adults (the parents) are doing the same thing. I cringe when I think of my grandchildren growing up and being exposed to this stuff but have to trust that their parents are on top of it as that is how they were raised.

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