In the schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford, we understand that modern technology offers our students opportunities that we could have never imagined possible. This digital world influences the way they learn, the way they communicate, and the overall way they live.
However, we also understand that technology, especially social media, presents unique ethical challenges. As educators and parents, it is our duty to prepare our young learners to approach these challenges with responsibility and a moral compass.
So when it comes time to sit down with your child to discuss the importance of using social media responsibly, here are some topics to consider:
Content: We are living in the age of oversharing, and while sharing is a wonderful act, in the case of social media, too much of this good thing can actually be dangerous. It is important that we teach our young learners the risks of posting information online. We also need to have a conversation with them on what types of things are safe to post and what things are not (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, D.O.B., or any other information that clearly identifies who and where they are, including using location check-in features). In a perfect world, this wouldn’t matter, but unfortunately it is a precaution we all must take in today’s society where “stranger danger” has been taken to a new level.
Privacy: Social networking tools have privacy settings that claim that the user has complete control over who sees which posts. Unfortunately, “private” settings aren’t as tightly locked down as we wish them to be, and every time a post is made, there is a risk of it going out to people who were never supposed to see it, especially with the “forward” and “share” options. Unintended viewers can include strangers, parents, teachers, and even future hiring managers. Good advice to give your social media users: Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want the world to see.
There is no such thing as “delete”: Once you post something on the internet, it is there forever — even if you hit the delete button. The text may disappear from the page, but it is still out there on the World Wide Web and can be accessed to some extent. It is very important that all social media users are made aware of this phenomenon and think twice before posting.
Be kind: Unfortunately, the anonymity of social media can be a breeding ground for bad behavior, including bullying, inappropriate photos and comments, and other posts that are instantly regretted. It is extremely critical that our discussions on the importance of core values cross over into the social medial sphere.
Despite the dangers, social media is a means for people all around the world to communicate and understand each other on a level that was never possible before. And as with any other change, there is a learning curve regarding responsible and safe internet use. However, if we join together as educators and parents in the Archdiocese of Hartford school community, we can help our young learners use social media for creating a world of good. For in the words of Pope Francis:
In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. … This is something truly good, a gift from God.