Social media can be a lot of fun. Sharing the photo you just snapped with your phone. Connecting with friends after school. Jumping into an online conversation about your favorite music group.
But for all the pros of social media, there are also many cons. Your digital footprint -- what you post and what is being tracked online -- lasts forever. Not only is it searchable and copyable, but it can also be viewed by almost anyone (including college admissions staff and your future boss).
Unlimited opportunities lie ahead of you. Protect your future by making good decisions now. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online. Think before you post!
Social Media Do's*:
Do: Think about how you present yourself online, including your profile image and your language. You are creating an online reputation that stays with you forever.
Do: Know who can access your personal information. You may be able to decide what parts of your profile others can access, but assume everything is public unless you learn otherwise. Sometimes "private" means everyone can see what's on your profile, but only your friends can post comments or contact you.
Do: Trust your instincts if something doesn't feel or look right. If something online makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a trusted adult.
Do: Think before posting your personal information. As soon as your information goes online, you can't control who sees it and how it's used. This means your photo could be shared almost instantly with thousands of people or even altered/distorted digitally. If you wouldn't want everyone to see it, don't post it.
Do: Think before sharing others' personal information, including tagging photos without their permission or sharing their personal life with the world. They deserve privacy as much as you, so help protect it.
Social Media Don'ts*:
Don't: Assume everyone you meet online is who he or she seems to be. Anyone can create a user profile pretending to be someone else -- even on social media sites that claim to connect students from the same school.
Don't: Post information that could lead someone to you offline. Avoid posting photos that include license plates or identifiable landmarks or messages that indicate your typical hangouts. Over time, people can piece together detailed information about you.
Don't: Reply to harassing or disturbing messages. Cyberbullies want to know they are making you worried or upset -- and want a reaction from you. Instead of responding, remain in control by talking to a trusted adult.
*Adapted from Webwise "Social Networking Advice for Teenagers"