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Does your teen appreciate the responsibility of freedom of expression on-line?

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The New York Post earlier this month posted an article about a caution from the White House Joint Chiefs Chairman, General Martin Dempsey to teens about explicit and careless posts on social media. According to the report, the general says he is worried that youth do not fully appreciate that the things they feel free to share on-line could hurt their chances for success in the future.

Freedom of expression does have consequences which in the cyber realm may prove difficult to overcome.

Sacramento City Police Officer Doug Morse concurs that teens would be well served to think before you post. “Our Background Unit reviews all applications for employment with the police department and there can be pitfalls that young people do not realize raise red flags later in life,” he said. “A student can post a benign statement that is associated with drug use or some other activity that may arouse suspicion. It could trigger an investigation.”

The larger concern is that teens are at risk of creating permanent records of conduct in their social media communications. According to Morse, unlike the juvenile justice system, which seals police records for minors, the internet does not.

“Posting on-line illegal behavior, such as underage drinking, or assault essentially creates a permanent record and it speaks to your personal credibility and your moral or ethical attitudes which may not be accurate, but will require awkward explanation at the very least.”

Morse references a number of ways in which teens inadvertently create a permanent on-line record that may be used to create a portrait of their moral character that could impact future opportunities.

  • Opinions offered about controversial topics that you believe is for “friends only”
  • Affiliations with gangs, even if you do not belong it one, comments you make can express association
  • Unsafe practices such as posting information about your location, school, your personal address and where you hang out

This problem of over sharing is something that more and more employers are considering as they have access to the personal information shared via Facebook and other social media accounts.

The top general Dempsey expressed hope that youth will wise up.

In this regard, parents would be well advised to monitor cyber communications of their teens (random checks), and encourage conversations about having a personal policy to post only the things your mom could read without becoming disappointed.

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