I was in the fifth grade when I stumbled across a picture like this one while leafing through our local telephone book. It was an artist’s rendering of phones of the future, the final point on a pictographic timeline. I remember gaping at this bizarre device, trying to visualize a futuristic world in which gadgets like these existed.
Well it’s 2013, and the future has arrived. My kids are growing up with the sci-fi technology I’d only seen on episodes of the Jetsons. It’s shrunk our planet exponentially in the last twenty years. Connecting with folks around the world is now an everyday occurrence, and I’ve certainly taken part through Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.
But engaging in online activities comes with no shortage of pitfalls. It puts us out there and makes us vulnerable. We see it in the news media all the time: public figures behaving badly for all the world to see. And it doesn’t take long for one poor choice to circumnavigate the globe, celebrity or not.
Take the young woman who dressed as a bloody Boston Marathon victim on Halloween. A tasteless costume choice, but her lack of judgment went a step further when she published photos of herself on Instagram and Twitter (Click here to see the article).
The posts went viral and led to an unforeseen level of backlash. Not only has she lost her job, she’s endured threats of violence against herself and her family.
It was hard-earned lesson for this poor girl, yet in it I saw a great reminder for myself, and a teachable moment for my kids. Internet smarts and safety are a common part of school curricula nowadays, but it sometimes takes a real life example to underscore the message.
After showing my girls the article, we discussed the ramifications of careless posting, and what one unthinking, spontaneous moment can lead to.
I’ve tried to accept that I will never know everything my kids are up to online. Navigating these technologies is a learned skill for my generation, but it comes intuitively to the Millennials. They will always be one step ahead of me.
So I monitor as best I can and use my advantage – life experience – to educate them about the downsides.
I knew I’d got through to them when my oldest summarized the takeaway point (edged with snippy teen attitude): “Okay, Mom. I get it. Before you post, think it through.”
Exactly. It’s nice to know that for once, they were listening.