Vol. 16, No. 1 • November 2011

NC Foster Care Alumni Share Advice about Social Media

You hear the term “social media” everywhere these days. From the White House to Waffle House, everyone seems to have a Facebook account, sends tweets on Twitter, and is able to video-chat with anyone on the planet via Skype. As concepts go, “social media” is broad, referring as it does to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, MySpace, Tagged, and Bebo are all examples of social media, because they are ways to connect socially via computer or mobile phone.

Noting the growing use of social media by youth in foster care, the NC Division of Social Services recently asked foster care alumni participating in its summer student intern program to create youth-friendly guidelines for how to stay safe and responsible on the Internet. Here is the advice about using social media that these foster care alumni have for youth still in care:

Be Safe. In general, social media is safe. There are rules and regulations for each site. But it is important to use the privacy settings to protect your personal information. Make a report to the site administrator if there is foul activity on your page.

Be Kind. Never use social media to abuse or harass others. You should never:

  • Post demeaning, rude, or disrespectful comments or pictures of someone.
  • Tease people.
  • Talk negatively about someone, even indirectly.
  • Stalk people (i.e., no unwanted, obsessive attention or contact).
  • Hack someone’s page (i.e., gain access to a person’s account or page without their permission).
  • Reveal someone’s personal life online.

Do
• Always set your privacy settings.
• Network with people.
• Be a role model.
• Promote an organization or business.
• Watch what you post or upload.
• Be respectful of people and their opinions.
• Report people who do things they aren’t supposed to.
• Keep your information private.

Don’t
• Add people you don’t know to your social networks.
• Post provocative or derogatory pictures of yourself or anyone else.
• Harass others.
• Curse or use foul language.
• Hack into other people’s pages.
• Tag people in pictures or comments who don’t want to be tagged.
• Physically meet people you meet online.
• Put all your personal business online.

Employers now look at potential employees’ social media pages. This includes looking at comments and links posted on your page, interests and likes, pictures, and even links or comments made by your friends.

Finally, consider this: when you post or upload something on the web it is there forever. NOTHING can be erased! To protect yourself, do not post or upload comments or pictures that are inappropriate. What you post in social media can affect your future in either a positive or negative way.

When you are using social media, someone is always watching!

To learn more about social media and foster parenting, check out “The 411 on Social Media, Networking and Texting!” by Adoption Resources of Wisconsin at http://www.wifostercareandadoption.org/library/1058/socialmedia.pdf.

Copyright 2011 Jordan Institute for Families