A common mistake teens make is oversharing online when they first start gaining access to social media. If they don’t have a solid understanding of what is appropriate to post and what isn’t, then they are at risk of posting something that could have a negative impact on their reputation. Parents and educators need to ensure that children are properly equipped to make good decisions online. As adults, we hear time and time again how social media posts affect student opportunities. It’s imperative that students understand positive digital etiquette and the impact oversharing online can have on their reputation.
So, how can you make sure your students know what to post on social media before they ever get access to it? We asked 20 experts to share their best tips students can use to avoid oversharing online and on social media.
1. Help students find outlets other than social media
In times like these, it is easy for students to overshare. They do not have the usual opportunities to engage with others in person and share within the confines of a room or at school or on a sports team. It is not surprising then that oversharing occurs.
I would help students understand:
- The differences between sharing in person and online; one has temporality on its side; the other has permanence; it helps to show how this permanence occurs;
- The old adage do unto others as you would have them do unto you has meaning; if a student reverses roles and thinks about a friend oversharing or a friend taking this student’s message and sharing it with others, that evaluation can curb oversharing;
- Create other outlets for students to share with each other and the larger community; if learning is in person, allow for anonymous sharing through chalking or post-notes; if learning is online, share a space where people can post thoughts (decent and not vituperative) anonymously recognizing that this is NOT the place for nastiness or discrimination; and
- Recognize why the student is oversharing and how that need can be met in other ways: get-together with a close friend with masks and social distancing; Facetime or other online conversations that are not recorded or rendered permanent; and non-judgmental recognition of the price of social isolation and the feelings and needs it engenders.
2. Be wary of third-party apps
Bradley Keys, Marketing Director, PatchMD
There are a few ways students can avoid oversharing, but these are the three most important ones that must be kept in mind:
- House tours and bedroom photos are dangerous. Photos and videos taken inside your house must be posted with caution. It can reveal the layout of your home, making it easier for thieves to find their way around and locate your valuables. Photos in your bedroom could be potentially dangerous as well, especially if there are pieces of jewelry and other valuables that can attract lawbreakers.
- Keep your profiles private to friends. Students must make sure they have their profiles locked to people that they know because, otherwise, their posts would be visible to potential hackers, stalkers, and thieves.
- Be cautious of third-party apps. You would often see intriguing quizzes on Facebook such as “What kind of cake are you?” or “What is the hidden meaning of your name?” This often leads to a pop-up that says an app is asking for access to your profile details and a bunch of other stuff. While this can be harmless, there’s always the risk that they might be from phishing sites that can gather information about you. And if you’re the oversharer type, there’s a security risk with that.
3. The Granny Test is always the best
Christy Garnhart, Mommster.com
The best way to teach children how to not overshare on the internet is to ask them to pretend to share it in real life. This tactic should be adjusted based on the developmental age of the child. For example, ask a junior high student, “Would you stand up in the middle of lunch and read your post to the entire cafeteria?” For high school students who are gearing up to apply to college, say “Would you want that picture to be seen by the admissions committee?”
The tried and true “Granny Test” is perfect to use with younger children. Encourage them to pretend that their sweet little granny was looking over their shoulder while they typed. Would she like what they wrote? When using this tactic, sometimes an “I don’t like my granny!” will pop up. Use their favorite professional athlete, a superhero, or another respected adult.
4. If you don’t want it to be a headline in a newspaper, don’t post
Florence Lehr, ARTriculate
As an independent college advisor, I ALWAYS raise this question with my students. The advice I always give is that they need to curate their social media because colleges can, and some do, search social media as no college wants problematic students on their campuses. Harvard actually rescinded the acceptances of 20 students in 2017 over racist memes they found on their social media accounts.
Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat.The Harvard Crimson
My rule of thumb is that if you don’t want it posted on the front page of your local paper, or wouldn’t send it to your grandmother, don’t post it on social media.
5. Hide the phone and question your actions before hitting post
Ben Worthington, Founder and Owner, IELTS Podcast
- Hide the Phone!
Never ever vent, share, or post when angry or emotional. Hide the phone and let yourself cool down first. Give yourself 10 minutes to cool down. You will probably spot a few typos too.
- Educate yourself
Before sharing, understand how the algorithms are working. They are engineered to trigger you, to get an emotional response. If you react by sharing you are falling into their plan. The services are free because you are the product being sold.
- Question your actions
Ask yourself a few questions before sharing:
– Could any group be hurt by sharing this video?
– Does anyone benefit from sharing this material?
6. Ask yourself a simple question before posting
Cindy Muchnick, Author/Speaker/Educational Consultant, Co-Author of The Parent Compass: Navigating Your Teen’s Wellness and Academic Journey in Today’s Competitive World
Ask yourself this question before you post: would you feel comfortable if your post was seen/read by your grandparents, teachers, or coaches? Or your parents? If your answer is, “No,” to any of those questions then do not post it; it is oversharing!
Posting text or photos on digital media is like getting a permanent tattoo. The words you write-whether on a quick Snapchat or in an Instagram post or in a “private” text message- are anything but quick and private. Screenshots can be taken on anything you post thereby making everything that you think is private actually public.
7. Do a clean up of your network
LaNysha Adams, Chief Technology Officer, Edlinguist Solutions
To avoid oversharing on social media, the best tactic to remember is: you are who you associate with. You may have heard the common notion that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. In fact, we are the average of all the people that surround us online and in-real-life (IRL).
The purpose of a social network is to build one’s digital footprint right now, but it will live on in perpetuity unless it is deleted. Personal identity info should stay off all platforms and checking-in can be dangerous, since some may try and use it as a tracking device! To help, it’s good to conduct an audit of who’s who in your network and to answer questions like, “How are they helping to elevate me?” After the audit, being mindful of the kind of content you post and why is key.
8. Create an advisory board
Marc Fienberg, Great Advice Group
Create a social media advisory board of one or two of your closest friends. For mundane posts about the delicious acai bowl you had for lunch, go ahead and post away. But for posts that have any content that’s even remotely salacious or controversial (especially photos), ask your advisory board friends to review it beforehand, and promise to abide by their decision if they veto it.
9. Remind your student nothing posted online is private
Jessica Speer, Author
As parents, it’s important to regularly remind tweens and teens that NOTHING posted online is private. Nothing. They may think they are just sharing with friends or a small group, but they might realize that once something is out there, it never goes away. Many parents check their kid’s phones, colleges check applicants’ social media accounts as well as future employers.
Students can learn how to shine online for colleges and future employers in SmartSocial.com’s Student Branding Academy.
10. Address oversharing like the issue it is
Veronica Miller, Cybersecurity Expert, VPNoverview
Since students can be more impulsive than adults, they need to be taught to exercise mindfulness before asking them to shun social media. There’s not much in the name of strategy or resources that we can do to break the new means of connectivity that students are now so attached to. Sharing on social media gives them an outlet and a platform to showcase their emotions and activities. Most of the time this is damaging, but for some teens and students, this is the way to go.
Much like controlling bullying and peer pressure at school in real life, oversharing on social media needs to be addressed like an issue. We need to instill habits and values among children of all ages to act responsibly and be mindful of all that they are saying on their “personal and private” social profiles. They must know how to protect personally identifiable information (PII) and make informed decisions about where to share this data and with whom.
Lessons in cybersafety and cyberbullying need to be made part of ongoing curricula, and students must be prepared to deal with it like a compulsory social issue. Every student must be encouraged to have an opinion about social media and related issues, and understand how every action on social media has a profound impact on others in their community.
11. Urge students to only share things relevant to their professional work online
Jennifer Lee Magas, Magas Media Consultants
Social media has become an integral part of our culture. Unfortunately, it’s easily accessible at all stages of life, including the young, the uninformed, and the inebriated. Employers will look up a candidate’s social media pages, so it’s important to keep it professional.
To avoid oversharing, students should treat social media like a building place for their personal brand. If you wouldn’t say it to 60,000 people, don’t put it online. If you’re upset, avoid posting anything online. Hide photos or comments that reflect poorly on you. Make use of your security settings and only share things relevant to your professional work. Treat social media like a public outing – be succinct, professional, courteous, and kind.
12. Teach students to think before they post
Ruth Carter, Carter Law Firm
Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper. This is regardless of privacy settings, and platforms like Snapchat where posts disappear. The same thing applies for emails and text messages. Today’s indignation, or what you thought was funny, may become tomorrow’s regret.
Assume everything you post or send will be seen by 4 people: your best friend, your worst enemy, your boss/favorite teacher, and your mother. If you don’t want one of those people to see what you’re thinking about posting/sending, don’t do it.
13. Have students customize the security settings on their social media accounts
Emmanuel Schalit, Co-Founder of Dashlane
Prevent oversharing on social media by customizing the security settings for all of your social media accounts to limit who can see what you post.
Think before you post. Be careful not to share posts that could reveal personally identifiable information, like your street address, mother’s maiden name, or any information commonly used as an account verification question. If you’re headed out of town, share posts about your trip after you return rather than while you are away.
14. Set firm guidelines
Amy Kilvington, Blinds Direct
When young people use social media, there is always a risk of information getting into the wrong hands. The best way to avoid this is by setting firm guidelines. Explain to your students or children that they shouldn’t type out anything that they wouldn’t say to a stranger in person. For example, would they happily give away their phone number to a random person on the street? No, of course not. The same goes for social media. You should not share any information that you wouldn’t willingly share ‘in real life’. This rule is very effective in ensuring kids stay safe, as it forces them to reconsider their virtual ‘friends’ as actual people, and think about the consequences that come with giving away information. Finally, it’s extremely important to make sure any geo-tags are switched off via Location settings.
15. Explain to students that the internet is permanent
Amanda Jane Saunders-Johnston, CCH Marketing
Teens are notorious for not thinking long-term when it comes to their actions, and that includes social media. Explaining to students that the internet truly is permanent is a great first step. Emphasize that they never know who is reading, even if their account is secure. Share examples of teens who have made statements they thought were funny or private, but reaped the consequences of national attention and lost college admissions or scholarships. With social media, less really is more (except when it comes to clothing), and it’s important they learn that now.
16. Remind students to post cautiously on social media
Sage Singleton, SafeWise
It’s essential for students to be savvy and cautious when posting to social media. While we all want to post about our new college dorm room, classroom, or campus, it’s important to post with caution. Social media gives everyone, including strangers, a clear view into your world and location, leaving you vulnerable and exposed. Don’t check-in or post your address or location on social media.
17. Encourage students to perform a yearly spring cleaning of their social media
Sarah Donawerth, Social Media Manager
The role of social media should be a way of connecting friends and sharing your everyday lives with each other. However, students should remember that social media is forever. Facebook now shares memories from your past posts. What will you want to see from your feed in a year? 5 years? 10 years? If you don’t want to see your sad face emoji status in 10 years, then you shouldn’t be sharing it now. If you really need to share about your breakup or the drama at school, make use of text messages to contact a friend that you can lean on. That way, you’re getting advice and comfort from a real person that you know, rather than waiting for an anonymous internet user to chime in on your personal life. Also, consider doing a once-a-year spring cleaning of your social media. If you’ve found that you tend to overshare and may not want those posts to represent you online, then go back and delete anything that you are not proud of. Social media should be a way to preserve your happiest/funniest/best memories, not your worst. Although it’s better not to overshare in the first place, it’s never too late to reel it back in!
18. Set a good example as parents and educators
Sue Perry and Velma Ganassini, SOS 4 Kids
Not oversharing begins with a good example set by parents. If parents are constantly posting information and photos of their family and kids, they not only set a terrible example for kids, but they can endanger their entire family. Predators learn a lot about the family’s habits and whereabouts and use that information for the purposes of select targets. This includes posting on social media, for sale/buy sites, Mom’s chat groups, etc.
19. Educate students on the impact social media can have
Chloe Mitchell, The Social Select
Social media plays such a large role in the lives of students today, and with the temporary nature of popular outlets like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, students often feel that their posts are safe from those outside of their immediate friend group. On the flip side, colleges, educators, and employers are just as interested and active on such platforms, as social media has become a very popular tool for scouting applicants and ensuring they are a good representation of their school or company.
Students can avoid oversharing online by simply being mindful of what they post. It is important to educate students on the impact and consequences of their shared posts. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it.
20. Remind students that it only takes one data breach to have personal info open to the public
Cristina Escalante, The SilverLogic
Consciously log out of Facebook after you check it. This prevents you from getting sucked in, should you instinctively open Facebook. Schedule a social media-free day or evening during your week to practice living without constantly status checking and updating. Apps like RescueTime are great for setting time limits on desktop computers, while Kidtrol is effective when setting limits on apps on iOS devices.
Before sharing anything, remind yourself that anyone working at the platform you’re posting on can access all of your pictures, read your private messages, and knows your phone number and email address. We’re all one data breach away from having our personal data open to the general public.
Your social media content is tied to your digital footprint and oversharing something online can have a major impact on your future opportunities. Understanding the consequences of oversharing on social media is the first step in learning how to prevent a mistake from happening.