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Teens of America Broadcast

Teens of America Broadcast

I had the pleasure of appearing on the Teens of America (#teensofamerica) broadcast last night. The show featured some amazing folks including Nathan, a 17 year old who chooses not to use social media until he’s convinced of its safety and Juan, a police officer who is doing all he can to protect children in the real and digital world. Hosted by Sean Mulroney, this show is on every Monday night from 7-9pm. This just might be a great way to start your week by listening with your teens and then talking about the topics you just heard.

The mission of Teens of America (TOA) is to encourage, train, and equip teens with the necessary tools to break the chains of negative choice. TOA works in cooperation with schools, police departments, and other community-based organizations throughout the country to instill a passion for success in the hearts of teens. TOA works to inspire a commitment to achievement through personal efforts by encouraging teens to stand up for what is right no matter what everyone else is doing.

Here is the scripted part of the show, but go to  to hear the whole discussion and past shows.

Teens may not realize that every single thing they do while connected to the Internet creates a digital footprint of who they are, what they like, who their friends are and where they live. It may not be immediately noticeable, but here are the things we need to remember and consider before we hit “send”.

Your name and reputation are uniquely yours and once you decide that you are going to be active on all forms of digital media, the responsibility is yours – not your parents, not your teachers, but yours to manage. All too often, all of us, adults included, think “it won’t happen to me”, but the question these days is not “if” but “when” you will be hacked.  We need to consider then the consequences of what we share online, knowing that it will be compromised someday, and more importantly that it is already creating our digital reputation.

Our identity can be stolen, and that can range from simply having your credit card hacked to someone actually taking over your identity and pretending to be you online. This can happen when we don’t protect our passwords, let others use our phones, and share too much personal information. The three most important things to protect are your name, birthdate and social security number. With those three items, anyone can take out a credit card or loan in your name and ruin your credit before you even know it’s taking place.

Your reputation is yours and while you may not think it’s a big deal who you appear to be online, this can potentially follow you forever. Once something is put online, whether it’s a picture, a comment or a post, it can be forwarded, altered, reposted, retweeted, whatever, forever. So don’t think Snapchat and KIK and all the other supposedly instantly disappearing apps will really protect you. Never forget that these apps are created to make money, not just for you to have fun. Your security is not their concern.

The incredible thing about the Internet is the speed and ease we have with connecting to friends and family. The bad news about that is we don’t always stop and think about how what we’re saying or posting might be perceived. And who hasn’t been the victim of autocorrect. Spelling, punctuation and word choice DOES MATTER. And all of us are guilty of answering or responding to other posts that arouse emotions in us. From anger to joy, responding too quickly can result in saying things you didn’t mean to say or certainly that you didn’t want the whole world to see. 

 We all go through phases of our lives and living those out online can create long term problems. The teen years are a tough time and teens experiment with different personas, change friends and eventually find themselves. But the more we share online at those difficult times, the more we leave a lasting impression that may no longer be true. We may hurt friends who feel left out or if they were going through it, those images and words are still there for the world to see.

 Over 90% of universities and employers are now using social media to “check out” potential students or employees. Remember that rebellious time in 8th grade that you ranted about everyone in a really bad way – it’s still out there for people to see. Remember how you talked bad about your boss, your co-workers or your teachers? It’s still out there for people to see.

Even though we delete posts and pictures that we regret, we may forget what all we put out there. There are also so many apps that are now popping up like Time Hop that not only still see those pictures, but pull them up and splash them on your app as a reminder of exactly when that happened. I’m not saying don’t delete things you wish you hadn’t posted or said – do. But don’t be surprised if it’s still out there.

And that whole thing about “it won’t happen to me, I’m careful, I know what I’m doing” etc. just doesn’t work. And if you’re not concerned about your own reputation, think about your family and friends and the light you’re putting them in. What we say and do online can put our friendships, our own or our family’s safety at risk.  I know it’s easy to think – why would someone want to hurt me or I’m not rich or beautiful, no one’s coming after me. But that just isn’t the case. Every single day there are jerks online whose sole purpose is to find unsuspecting people to take advantage of them, whether it’s stealing your identity, your credit or even trying to meet you in person and hurt you. We’ve all heard a zillion stories about the emails that offer free money just for responding. Simply clicking on the link can put you at risk because now they know they have found a live email or profile and it opens the door to them connecting to you and/or your device. And another risk is that you could be compromising your devices simply by clicking on a link – that link could have malware or viruses attached to them and you might not even know it’s infecting your phone, tablet or laptop.

 Right now there are over 1 million apps and games available – there is no way that any of us can know what is good, what is safe and what to stay away from. But, we do know that nothing can be permanently deleted and it could potentially be seen by anyone. Don’t let an app lull you into thinking that it will protect you. As quickly as a new app is developed, someone figures out how to abuse it and you. And just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it okay or right. There is a huge feeling that it is okay to send intimate pictures to the one you love, but seriously they don’t disappear and he may not love you next week. Do you really want to be “that girl or guy”? Times haven’t changed that much, people still talk about sexy pictures in a negative way.   I don’t care that the lines have blurred based on what we see on TV, in Music or movies, there still is a negative effect and it can last a lifetime. You may get the attention you think you want, but it won’t be real and it won’t be good and it will be a lot harder to get back your good reputation, no matter what the circumstances or how much you think someone loved you or wouldn’t hurt you.

Speaking of games, it is so easy to get lulled into thinking that the coarse smack talk that is the norm in games, is okay in real life. And that could not be further from the truth. That goes for the violence and treatment of others too. Just because a game is built around winning at all costs doesn’t mean that is what real life is. Be sure that “game talk” doesn’t become part of your other comments and posts.

We haven’t even talked about bullying or being bullied. What we share online can hurt someone else whether intentional or not. Feeling isolated or left out is one of the worst feelings and it happens so easily when we carelessly post comments or pictures. And when bullying is intentional, it is never okay. Saying things online that you would never say to a person’s face not only makes you a bully but a coward and a fake. In the end, you will be the one people don’t like. And sometimes without thinking we can share things about ourselves that set us up to be bullied or misunderstood. And while it’s not fair for people to take advantage of that – they will.

It didn’t work when I was a teen and it won’t work when your kids are teenagers, your reputation is what you make it and if you don’t protect it online and in real life, it will be a lot harder to get it back as you get older and that could affect the rest of your life.

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