Young People Ask

What Should I Know About Social Networking?​—Part 2

Number the items below in order of their importance to you.

․․․․․ my privacy

․․․․․ my time

․․․․․ my reputation

․․․․․ my friendships

WHICH issue above did you rate number one​—the one that’s the most important to you? That aspect of your life, as well as the other three, could be at risk if you use a social networking site.

Should you have a social networking account at all? If you live with your parents, that’s for them to decide. * (Proverbs 6:20) Like nearly any use of the Internet, social networking can have its benefits​—and its pitfalls. If your parents don’t want you to have an account, you should comply with their wishes.​—Ephesians 6:1.

On the other hand, if your parents do allow you to use a social networking site, how can you avoid the dangers? The “Young People Ask” article that appeared in the July 2011 Awake! discussed two areas of concern​—your privacy and your time. In this article, we’ll take a look at your reputation and your friendships.

YOUR REPUTATION

Guarding your reputation means being careful not to give others valid reason to think badly of you. To illustrate, imagine that you own a brand-new car; it doesn’t have a single scratch or dent. Wouldn’t you like to keep it that way? How would you feel if because of your own carelessness, your car was wrecked in an accident?

Something similar can happen to your reputation on a social network. “With one thoughtless picture or post,” says a girl named Cara, “your reputation can be ruined.” For example, consider how your reputation might be affected by . . .

Your pictures. The apostle Peter wrote: “Always let others see you behaving properly.” (1 Peter 2:12, Contemporary English Version) What have you noticed if you have looked at photos on a social networking site?

 “Sometimes a person I’ve thought highly of will have pictures of himself or herself appearing to be drunk.”​—Ana, 19.

“I know girls who pose in ways that accentuate their bodies. They look so different on their social network page from the way they look off-line.”​—Cara, 19.

What would you conclude about the character of someone who in a social network photo (1) is dressed provocatively or (2) appears to be drunk?

1 ․․․․․

2 ․․․․․

Your comments. “Let a rotten saying [“filthy talk,” International Standard Version] not proceed out of your mouth,” says Ephesians 4:29. Some have noticed that crude language, gossip, or immoral topics creep into discussions on social networking sites.

“People feel less inhibited on a social network. The words don’t sound as bad when you type them as when you say them out loud. You may not be swearing, but your words can be more flirty, daring, or even dirty.”​—Danielle, 19.

Why, in your opinion, do many people feel less inhibited when in front of a computer screen?

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Do the photos and comments that you post really matter? Yes! “At school, that’s been a big topic,” says a teen named Jane. “We’ve discussed how employers will look at an applicant’s social network page to judge his or her character.”

In the book Facebook for Parents, Dr. B. J. Fogg says that he does just that when hiring. “I consider this part of my due diligence,” he says. “If I can access an applicant’s Profile, and I see junky things, then I’m not impressed. I won’t hire that person. Why? Because people who work with me need excellent judgment.”

If you’re a Christian, there’s something even more important to consider​—how your posts might affect others, whether they are fellow believers or not. The apostle Paul wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling.”​—2 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Peter 3:16.

What You Can Do

If your parents allow you to use a social network, look at your posted pictures and ask yourself: ‘What do these photos say about me? Is this really how I want to present myself? Would I be embarrassed if my parents, a Christian elder, or a prospective employer were to see these photos?’ If your answer to that last question is yes, make changes. That’s what 21-year-old Kate did. “A Christian elder spoke to me about my profile picture,” she says, “and I was grateful. I knew that he wanted to protect my reputation.”

Also, carefully review the comments you’ve posted​—as well as those that others have posted on your page. Don’t tolerate “foolish talking” or “obscene jesting.” (Ephesians 5:3, 4) “Sometimes people post comments with bad words or double meanings,” says 19-year-old Jane. “Even though you’re not the one who said it, it reflects poorly on you because it’s your page.”

 When it comes to the photos and comments that you post, what boundaries will you set so that you guard your reputation?

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YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

If you owned a brand-new car, would you allow just anyone inside? If your parents allow you to have a social networking account, you face a similar decision with regard to whom you will invite​—or accept—​as a friend. How selective will you be?

“Some people make getting more friends their only goal​—the more, the better. They may even add people they don’t really know.”​—Nayisha, 16.

“A social network allows you to reconnect with people from your past. But sometimes those people are best left in your past.”​—Ellen, 25.

What You Can Do

Suggestion: Audit and edit. Review your list of friends and make adjustments where necessary. In each case, ask yourself:

1. ‘How well do I know what this person is like off-line?’

2. ‘What pictures and comments does this person post?’

3. ‘Is this friend a positive influence in my life?’

“I usually go through my ‘friends list’ each month. If there’s someone on there that I’m uncomfortable with or that I don’t know well, I delete that person from my list.”​—Ivana, 17.

Suggestion: Establish a ‘friending policy.’ Set boundaries as to whom you will invite or accept as a friend, just as you would off-line. (1 Corinthians 15:33) For example, a young woman named Leanne says: “My policy is this: If I don’t know you, I don’t accept your friend request. If I see something on your page that makes me uncomfortable, I’ll delete you from my ‘friends list’ and not accept further requests.” Others have set similar boundaries.

“I don’t ‘friend’ just anyone. That could be dangerous.”​—Erin, 21.

“I’ve had requests from old schoolmates to become their networking friend. But I did my best in school to avoid that particular crowd; why would I want to be part of it now?”​—Alex, 21.

Below, write out what will be your ‘friending policy.’

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More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/​ype

[Footnote]

^ par. 9 Awake! neither endorses nor condemns any particular networking site. Christians should be sure that their use of the Internet does not violate Bible principles.​—1 Timothy 1:5, 19.

[Blurb on page 10]

A Bible proverb states: “If you have to choose between a good reputation and great wealth, choose a good reputation.”​—Proverbs 22:1, Today’s English Version

[Box on page 12]

WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?

Review with your parents this article and the “Young People Ask” article that appeared in the July 2011 issue of Awake! Discuss how your use of the Internet is affecting (1) your privacy, (2) your time, (3) your reputation, and (4) your friendships.

 [Box on page 13]

A NOTE TO PARENTS

Your children may know more about the online world than you do. But they don’t have your level of judgment. (Proverbs 1:4; 2:1-6) It is as Internet-safety expert Parry Aftab said: “Kids know more about technology. Parents know more about life.”

In recent years, social networks have become popular. Is your adolescent mature enough to use one? That’s for you to decide. Like driving a car, having a bank account, or using a credit card, social networking has its share of risks. What are some of these?

PRIVACY. Many youths don’t understand the consequences of putting too much information online. Indicating where they live, where they attend school, or when they’re at home or away could compromise the safety of your family.

What you can do. When your children were younger, you taught them to look both ways before crossing the street. Now that they’re older, teach them how to be safe online. Read the information on privacy issues that appeared in last month’s “Young People Ask” article. Also see Awake! of October 2008, pages 3-9. Then discuss this material with your teen. Strive to instill “practical wisdom and thinking ability” with regard to online safety​—Proverbs 3:21.

TIME. Social networking can be addictive. “After just a few days of having an account, I couldn’t stop looking,” says 23-year-old Rick. “I spent hours going through pictures and posts.”

What you can do. Read and discuss with your children the article “Young People Ask . . . Am I Addicted to Electronic Media?” which appeared in the January 2011 issue of Awake! Pay particular attention to the box “I Was a Social-Networking-Site Addict,” on page 26. Help your adolescent become “moderate in habits” and adhere to a time limit regarding Internet use. (1 Timothy 3:2) Remind him or her that there is such a thing as life off-line!

REPUTATION. “The good or bad that children do shows what they are like,” says a Bible proverb. (Proverbs 20:11, Contemporary English Version) That’s certainly true online! Furthermore, since a social network is a public forum, what your children post can affect not only their reputation but also that of the family.

What you can do. Teenagers should know that what they post online reflects who they are. They also need to understand the adage, What happens online stays online. “The concept of permanence of online material is not easy for kids to grasp but crucial for them to begin to learn,” writes Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O’Keeffe in the book CyberSafe. “One way to explain online behavior to kids is to remind them not to say online what they would not say off-line to anyone.”

FRIENDSHIPS. “Many teenagers want to be perceived as popular,” says 23-year-old Tanya, “so they will be more willing to accept ‘friends’ who are strangers or who are unprincipled.”

What you can do. Help your son or daughter develop a ‘friending policy.’ For example, 22-year-old Alicia doesn’t usually add friends of friends to her list. She says, “If I don’t know you or haven’t met you face-to-face, then I’m not adding you simply because we have mutual friends.”

A couple named Tim and Julia set up their own networking account through which they could monitor their daughter’s friends and posts. “We required that she include us in her list of friends,” says Julia. “The people she’s connecting with are as good as in our living room. We want to know who they are.”

[Picture on page 11]

Just as a car can be wrecked if driven carelessly, your reputation can be ruined if you post indecent pictures and comments online

[Picture on page 12]

Would you pick up a stranger just because he needed a ride? Why, then, accept as an online friend someone you don’t know?