The posts could hurt feelings. They can haunt you when applying for college or jobs. They can get you in trouble at school, kicked off a sports teams and sometimes even in trouble with police.
The school sessions also touch on sharing too much personal information — eating habits, bathroom habits, schedules, moods and feelings — that you may regret having shared with classmates later on. One of the most common mistakes teens make: snapping a celebratory photo of their new driver’s license, with all their personal information visible, and posting it online.
The district is using existing staff and free online resources. Will Powell, a licensed teacher and Roosevelt’s technology coordinator, talked to a class of eighth-graders about sexting during a session last week.
The heartfelt promise from a boyfriend or girlfriend that “I will never show anyone else in the world” is often followed by “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Someone should see this,” Powell tells students.
Powell cautioned students that studies suggest that more than 80 percent of sexting pictures sent by teens end up on adult-content websites.
He also advised students to think about their privacy settings and friend lists on social media: How much can someone find out about you by “Googling”? Do you know this person sending the friend request? Have you talked to them in the last month?
‘I have an account my parents don’t know about’
Powell will also present at the parents session on Tuesday.
He said the biggest mistake parents make is not proactively talking to their kids about digital citizenship, assuming they don’t have access, interest or parental permission to use social media.
“I don’t think you can take the position my child won’t be in the digital world. They are exposed to it by everybody else,” Blodgett said.
Powell said students often tell him, “ ‘I have an account my parents don’t know about.’ I’ve heard it from enough students. They are net savvy enough to create an account without you knowing. Even though you say no, there still needs to be a conversation going on.”
Starting the conversation and setting rules means teens are more likely to come to parents if they witness bullying or suspicious behavior online.
Often, teens don’t tell parents about suspicious or threatening behavior online because they fear their parents’ first reaction will be to take away the phone or table, Powell said.
“There has to be that conversation between a parent and student about what the expectations are. Set consequences for inappropriate posts and check on your students."
Powell recommends parents have all the passwords for their middle school students’ e-mail and social media accounts to regularly check activity.
“I think the parents should definitely have the password for their middle school kids, phone, e-mail, Twitter,” Powell said. “Then there is that gradual release. If your student is doing a great job and you don’t feel like you need to make those checks, back off a bit.”
Alison Feigh, who teaches students and parents across the state about Internet safety, said her main advice to parents overwhelmed at the ever-changing social media landscape is this: You don’t have to know all the inner workings of a car to set limits on teen driving. Likewise, you don’t need to know all the details of every app or social media site to set standards for online behavior.
Feigh, program coordinator at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, said the most important piece of Internet safety is identifying a real-life support system with their kids.