According to a survey conducted by Pew Internet in 2010, 93% of teens ages 12–17 use the internet. Of those, 73% use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace. In a separate survey, 68% of girls aged 14–17 report having had a negative experience such as being cyberbullied, being gossiped about, or being made to feel ashamed of themselves. Forty-five percent of those girls have their blogs and pictures available to strangers. Nine percent of girls report that their contact information is available online to strangers.
LMK, a web site developed by Girl Scouts of the USA, lists the following four risks involved with social networking:
- The risk to you from others: You could be cyberbullied, targeted by a sexual predator, your friends may share too much information about you, or someone could steal your identity.
- The risk to others from you: Whether it’s intentional or not, you could be cyberbullying someone or you could share too much information about one of your friends.
- The risk to your computer: Someone can stick a virus or spyware into a download, or use tricks to get into your computer or your accounts by “phishing,” or guess your password and hack into your computer.
- The risk you pose to yourself: Are you really willing to have your parents, principal, the police, or a predator know everything you post online? or that story that was funny .?.?. at the time? But when the college admissions office or that potential summer employer sees it .?.?. well, this may be the biggest risk of all.
Want to prevent yourself, your friends, or anyone else you know from falling victim? Earning the Safe Social Media patch can help you to do just that! To earn the Safe Social Media patch you need to complete at least five activities from the following list:
- Learn about Facebook’s privacy settings—why are they so complicated and what do they mean?
- Learn why you should never post private information on the Internet. Create a presentation and talk to younger girls about this.
- List at least five tips to prevent cyberbullying.
- Explore different social media sites. What are common features of all of them? What are the pros and cons? How easy or difficult do the sites make it to keep information private?
- Survey 30 teenagers and find out how much time each of them spends on social media sites each day. Compile the information that you receive in a chart that can be posted on our website, along with an explanation.
- Find out the top five concerns that parents/teachers have about social media and why those are concerns?
- Check out ten people’s profiles on Facebook or Myspace. How much personal information do they give out? Are there any comments or pictures on their page that they wouldn’t want potential employers to see?
After completing at least five of these activities, put together a PowerPoint presentation, YouTube video, sound recording or podcast, slide show, blog, illustration, or anything else you can think of that summarizes everything you learned about social media. E-mail your finished product to the Pathways Manager or mail it to: Pathways Manager, Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, 8170 Thompson Rd, Cicero, NY 13039-9393. You may find your presentation on the council’s YouTube channel!