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The Consequences of Sharing Online

illustration of girl crying in front of her computer while being cyrberbullied

In today’s digital age of over-sharing online, there’s rarely a permanent delete button for posts. Sometimes we instantly recognize the potential consequences and look to retract our actions. All too often though, the lack of self-awareness leads to careless sharing with consequences that may not surface for months or years.

Regardless of the platform, the lure of being a part of a social network is magnetic for many. We can’t deny the volumes of positive connections it creates to generate awareness on issues, find long lost friends, raise money for causes, or to coordinate an event. But social networks arrived on the scene without a user manual. Some learn too late that the consequences of not thinking before you post can be severe.

Posting Without Thinking

How can we be better at filtering our thoughts before we decide to share them with the world? Unfortunately, the temptation to click a like or share button is strong enough for some users that it’s often done without a second thought. However, social media would be a much more enjoyable place if we simply stopped to consider “what if…?” before clicking send or post.

Studies show the impacts of over-sharing about yourself (or others) and over-engaging in social media. Impacts range from identity theft to data being sold, and anxiety or depression to cyberbullying.

Some people don’t take into consideration the adverse effects social media could have on individuals. Now that we better understand how social media is affecting our society, we need to ask:

  • Are we doing enough to manage our online presence responsibly?  

  • Are we teaching kids how to learn how to use it sensibly?

  • Are we teaching them that what they share online has a shelf life of forever?

  • Are we adopting these principles on our social media accounts?

What Takes Seconds to Post, Lives on Eternally

It can be hard for kids of all ages to grasp the concept that social media posts can bite back at any time. The instant gratification of likes, retweets, and views can have addictive characteristics. These often lead to a here and now focus. What we should be thinking about are long-term effects and repercussions of our actions. Everything and anything shared online lives in cyberspace eternally. When we’re focused on instant gratification now, we can’t disregard the long-term effects of our actions.

Teach Children and Teens How to Avoid the Consequences

Educating children about how their choices online can have long-lasting effects is critical. Dr. Elana Pearl Ben-Johnson outlines some guiding tips for parents that educators could easily reinforce in their classrooms.

  • Think twice before posting. Remind students that what they post can be used against them.
  • Follow The WWGS (What Would Grandma Say?) Rule. To emphasize the widespread visibility of posts, children should share anything they wouldn’t want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see.
  • Ask them to treat others with respect, and never post hurtful or embarrassing messages.
  • Request they inform you about any harassing or bullying messages that others post.
  • Explain the importance of privacy settings, and how to use them.
  • For their safety, stress that they don’t friend strangers.

While we can never fully take back everything we put on social media in the past, we can certainly prevent future blunders. With some forethought and early education, students can protect their present, their future on the increasingly challenging world wide web.