Teens should think critically about Internet use

Posted Feb. 06, 2011, at 7:37 p.m.
Last modified March 04, 2011, at 4 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This guest column was written at the request of Northeast CONTACT by Teri Caouette, a school librarian working with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. MLTI is partnering with Common Sense Media to help schools develop a digital citizenship curriculum in Maine. Next week: an adult’s guide to safe Internet use.

Let’s face it. Most of you know more about technology than your teachers or parents.

You understand the power of technology to collaborate and learn. Centuries ago, when I was a teenager myself, I hated hearing my teachers and parents tell me what I should or should not do. There were rare adults in my life who presented facts and situations and allowed me to come to my own conclusions and understandings.

In appreciation of those adults who helped me find my own path, I will give you 10 questions that might help you and your friends to think critically and do further research about your use of technology:

  1. Is the amount of time I spend online affecting my relationships, my physical health, my mental health, my intellectual growth? Does my media use make me a better person, make the world a better place and improve my chances to get where I want to go in the future? Does it improve communications with friends and family and teachers?
  2. Is the information I am posting on the Internet going to be seen positively by schools and employers when they check online profiles? Teens have been suspended, fired from jobs, charged with child pornography, kicked off sports teams and refused admission at colleges for posting inappropriate material online.
  3. Since information on the Internet is permanent and persistent, what are some ways that I can develop a positive digital footprint?
  4. Why should I keep some of my information private? It only takes one jerk to make your life miserable by posting private information or by using your password to collect information. Changing passwords to a combination of letters and numbers is best. Also, is it in my best interest to have people on my Facebook as friends that I do not know, respect or trust?
  5. Do I have an obligation to keep other people’s information or e-mails private?
  6. Do the language and grammar I use in my Internet communication matter? Should it change depending on whom I am corresponding with?
  7. What is the best way for me to respond to someone who is making me feel uncomfortable online? To whom should I talk if someone is a bit creepy, asks me to send pictures or to meet privately and not tell my parents about him or her?
  8. What can I do if I fall victim to cyberbullying? What can I do if this is happening to someone else? Is there a person I can tell whom I trust? How can I prevent cyberbullying in my group of friends?
  9. How would I feel if someone is using my work and taking credit for it? How can I get and give credit for original work? Do I have a legal obligation to give credit for the illustrations and work I use?
  10. How do I know the information I am getting on the Internet is reliable?

Teri Caouette may be reached at teri.caouette@mlti.org.

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