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 10 experts to share their best tips students can use to avoid oversharing online and on social media.
1. Urge students to only share things relevant to their professional work onlineJennifer Lee Magas, Magas Media Consultants, @MagasMediaPR
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.
2. Teach students to think before they postRuth Carter, Carter Law Firm, @RBCarter
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 be 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.
3. Have students customize the security settings on their social media accountsEmmanuel Schalit, Dashlane, @ESchalit
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.
4. Set firm guidelinesAmy Kilvington, Blinds Direct, @BlindsDirectGB
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.
5. Explain to students that the internet is permanentAmanda Jane Saunders-Johnston, CCH Marketing, @AJSJohnston
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.
6. Remind students to post cautiously on social mediaSage 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.
7. Encourage students to perform a yearly spring cleaning of their social mediaSarah Donawerth, Social Media Manager, @SarahDonawerth
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!
8. Set a good example as parents and educators
Sue Perry and Velma Ganassini, SOS 4 Kids, @SOSforKids
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.
9. Educate students on the impact social media can haveChloe Mitchell, The Social Select, @TheSocialSelect
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.
10. Remind students that it only takes one data breach to have personal info open to the publicCristina Escalante, The SilverLogic, @TheSilverLogic
Consciously log out 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.
Some helpful tips to avoid oversharing on social media are:
- Only share things relevant to your professional/school work.
- Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t put on the front page of the newspaper.
- Think about the consequences that come with giving away personal information.
- Remind yourself that you never know who is watching your social media posts (it could be a college admissions officer, coach, or future employer).
- 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 an anonymous internet user.