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In the recent brutal murder case that rocked a small New Hampshire town, four teenage suspects were identified from online social networking sites hours before authorities even announced arrests had been made. Some of the online material may make its way into the legal case against the teens.
“I think the Internet and social networking sites provide some sort of anonymity for kids,” Dr. Tristan Gorrindo, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told WBUR's Bob Oakes.
Advice On Safe Social Networking
For teens: When thinking about updating your Facebook page, be sure to WAIT:
- W: Would I want what I'm writing to appear on the front page of my school newspaper?
- A: Am I in a good emotional state right now? Am I angry, upset, sad?
- I: Is there a way in which others might misinterpret what I'm saying?
- T: Today, tomorrow or the next day — be thinking of future consequences
For parents and teachers: Always encourage dialogue and supervise what kids do online. What they post has the potential to be viewed by hundreds of their peers.
Gorrindo said a sense of anonymity may lead children to think they’re immune from the public’s perception about them.
“If you think about posting something online and having 800 people reading it instantaneously, the analogy I like to use with kids is to say, ‘would you do that same action in a school assembly in front of 800 other kids?’,” Gorrindo said.
There’s also a role for parents to play. Gorrindo said parents should be more net savvy and learn more about social networking sites.
He said they should be more aware of their child’s activity online, and recommended Web sites like netsmartz.org and getnetwise.org to teach parents about social networking sites, how to use privacy settings and how to be good consumers of social networking.
Gorrindo said that, although it’s reasonable to want to give their teenagers privacy and space, parents need to be involved and curious when it comes to social networking.
“Parents can get on Facebook themselves, and actually ‘friend’ their children, so they can see what is being posted on their child’s Facebook page,” Gorrindo said.
Gorrindo said we’re better off teaching kids how to think through their actions by having the parents become more net savvy and have a dialogue with their kids.
“Though it’s perfectly natural for kids to want some level of privacy, Facebook is not the place for parents to remain uninvolved,” Gorrindo said.
WBUR's Sarah Bush compiled this report. Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear Oakes's full interview with Dr. Tristan Gorrindo.
This program aired on October 21, 2009.
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