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Networking and the Net Generation


Technology is used to improve the quality of our lives. Not only is it used for digital hearing aids and other high tech devices, we also use technology to socialize. If you are like most teens, you probably spend a lot of time each week socializing with your friends. How you socialize is different from how your parents and grandparents did it. They did not have email, text messaging, mySpace, FaceBook, IM, YouTube, cellphones etc. They either met up in person or talked to each other on the land-line telephone. No wonder they complain that you spend too much time with your cellphones and computers! They just don't understand.

Every generation has their own way of staying up to date with what is going on and let's face it, with the technology available today, it offers us the ultimate way to keep up with everything and everybody. It lets you keep up with a large group of friends that you may know only on a 'surface level', for example, kids you went to grade school with or met while on vacation, but no longer see regularly. It lets you keep up with a closer circle of friends in a more immediate way to offer support or share something that is happening in your life. You can send an IM and instantly connect with your friends. With FaceBook and MySpace it is easy to post updates or change your profile so your friends can keep up with you. You can "write on the wall", and even upload photos and videos to show others what you are up to and where you have been. It has never been easier to stay in touch.

Teen Facebook

With FaceBook and MySpace you can even show a little of your personality! Based on the kinds of stuff that you put in your profile, and on your page, you can show your style. Sort of like what you wear lets you express yourself, so does the information displayed on your internet pages. The writings on the wall, the photos and videos you post, and any other content that goes up is a reflection of you.

You can upload whatever you want the world to know about you. You can add Friends, block out certain people, and in general manage your online reputation. This is what freaks most parents out. They worry that by posting and sharing about yourself via the technology, you are jeopardizing your privacy. This is a huge issue. Once your post is up, it can be viewed and taken by anyone, and then redistributed without your permission. Of course, this means you need to be very careful about what you post!

Tips on helping parents cope:

Your parents probably worry about your safety, security, and privacy. For them, having things online represents a way for you to be vulnerable. Their job is to protect you. Your job is to earn their trust and show them that you can handle yourself in a way that does protect yourself and your privacy.

Show them you are responsible

Weird Look Teen

In order to help your parents cope with your "online persona", show them that you are responsible by only posting content that is suitable for them (and any younger brothers or sisters) to view. While it might seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment to post pictures of you and your friends doing something outrageous for "shock value" they may come back to haunt you. If they are copied and redistributed, you and your reputation could be plastered in places and on sites you would rather not be seen.

It also helps if you reassure your parents that you know there are creeps out there and that you don't engage in ongoing conversations with people whom you don't know personally. Yes, there are adults who pose as teens and try to lure some young people into a real life meeting. Let your parents know you don't do this and you would never, ever meet up with someone you met online. It is just stupid and dangerous.

Teen laptop

Let your parents know that the lines between school, social, and home life are not as clear as they once were. They are blurred and all three of these areas are important for you and who you socialize with. Often parents are afraid of the unknown. Let them meet your friends in real life. Let them know what it is you admire in your friends. It will help your parents see them in a positive light.

Earn your parents trust. By acting responsibly, and managing the content of what is on your webpage, what you send and receive on your cellphone, what photos and videos you upload and download, etc. they will see that you can be trusted and make good decisions. Each step in this direction is a step towards independence. If you continually make bad choices and show irresponsible behavior, they will think you are not mature enough to handle yourself and they will insist on more supervision and restrictions. This would not be cool.

Google Yourself Regularly!

One way to see what is out there on the internet about you is to Google yourself regularly. Google your name, phone number, or any other information that might be tied to you and your identity. Have a look at what comes up. This will help you know if information you are posting is being taken and then posted elsewhere.

Think Before You Click "Send" or "Post"

Teen Cell Phone

Have you ever sent a message or posted something online and then regretted it? There is not anyone out there who has not regretted something that was sent or posted. We all mess up sometimes. When you respond while your emotions are high, whether you are feeling good or bad, angry, or upset, give yourself at least five minutes. Think about your post from the perspective of the reader. If it will cause harm, hurt, or upset, it may be best to delete it. In this electronic age of 'instant everything', write out your top secret stuff in a journal. This way it is never 'online' and can never be taken and used without your permission. Try to send or post things that will reflect well on you and your friends as it is your reputation at stake.

Understand where they are coming from

While our parents and grandparents might not be comfortable socializing through the internet, texting, IM, email, or YouTube, it is possible to help them understand why it is important to you and your friends. It just takes a little time and understanding which will go a long way to bridge the gap that is there for all of us. Eventually they will learn.

Your future is now

With easy access to you and your friends through the technology you use, it is also very easy for future employers to find out information about you. There has been a trend among employers, as part of the screening process when considering prospective employees, to seek out information about the job applicants in the online places like FaceBook, or MySpace. If they find you and read about some not-so-becoming things, they may think twice about hiring you. There have been recent cases in the press where university graduates have missed out on great job opportunities because of the content they had posted about themselves.

What you post might come back to haunt you, and sometimes, once it is out there, you may lose control of it. We will address the issue of cyberbullying in a future issue of "Navigating Your Teen Years", so be sure to check back for more tips about how to use this technology to your advantage without getting burned.