Pause Before You Post

Greetings, parents! 

We are excited to announce our  participation in Pause Before You PostTM, an awareness program from Jostens that encourages students to make smart decisions when using social media sites. During an afternoon assembly on September 16th,  students in grades 6-12 were shown an informative video featuring cyberbullying experts and heard a presentation from Scott Fitch on the social media. The students were very engaged and we hope it has prompted discussions amongst students and remind students to pause before they post.  We encourage you and your student to make the commitment and discuss the questions and consequences outlined below. 

What is Cyberbullying and Why Do I Need to Know? 
Kids have been bullying each other for generations. The latest generation, however, has been able to utilize technology to expand their reach and the extent of their harm. This phenomenon is being called cyberbullying, defined as: “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.”  Basically, this refers to incidents where adolescents use technology, usually computers or cell phones, to harass, threaten, humiliate, or otherwise hassle their peers. 

Many students are actively involved in creating content for the World Wide Web by posting blogs, pictures, comments, and other pieces of information.  Most of the time, this content is creative, interesting, educational, and socially and culturally appropriate.  However, sometimes the postings are mean, hurtful, or otherwise very much inappropriate.  Examples include sending hurtful text messages, spreading rumors with blog entries, making fun of others on Facebook, posting private videos on YouTube, or otherwise sharing and manipulating information online. 

Therefore, it’s essential for parents to be actively involved in the online lives of their children in order to address inappropriate behaviors before they are out of control.  If you see that your child has posted mean or hurtful comments or photos, confront them about it.  Talk with them about why this is wrong and how people will judge him or her based on what they see online.  Also reinforce positive values, including respect and integrity, and encourage your children to show compassion for others in real life and online.  


Pause Before You PostTM:  Top Ten Tips to Teach Teens 
Consider stressing the following points to your students as you encourage safe and responsible online behaviors: 

1.  Do not post or send it if it would cause you any measure of embarrassment in the eyes of family, close friends, future spouses, employers, colleges, or law enforcement now or in the future.  Consider if the statement or image was forever branded and tied to your full name for the rest of your life.  What does it say about your character, attitude, behaviors, or values?  Also shy away from political and religious declarations which might seem abrasive and may offend others.  Even though these opinions might be legitimate and protected speech, teens need to be aware that by posting their thoughts on these matters they are inviting criticism from those who don’t agree with them.  
2.  Don't vent or complain - especially about specific people or organizations - in public spaces online, such as a friend's publicly-viewable Wall.  People will negatively judge you based on your online attitude, even if the complaint has merit. Be careful, too, about posting in seemingly private environments or sending private messages to others you think you can trust because you never know who will stumble across your comments.

3.  Never post or respond to anything when you are emotionally charged up. Step away from your computer.  Put down your cell phone.  Take a few hours, or even a day or two, and allow your brain some downtime to think through the best action or response.  Responding based on emotion and in quick fashion rarely helps a problem go away, and usually compounds the issue.  

4.  Take care to avoid being "guilty by association."  You might not post an incriminating photo of yourself, but your friend might do so and tag you in it.  Or, if your friends often post about unethical or illegal behavior, you could be grouped with them.  Go through your friends list every month and delete those you do not fully trust, those with whom you have superficial and largely meaningless friendships, and those you aren't likely to ever talk to again. Research shows that those who will most often take advantage of you won't be strangers, but those you've let into your life just a little bit. It is not worth opening yourself up to someone who in the future may be competing with you for an opportunity, and may use what they know about you to cast you in a negative light.

5.  Be careful of oversharing and promoting drama, gossip and rumors.  Remember that people don't care as much as you want them to care about all of the various happenings in your life. Also, others may think you have way too much time on your hands or don’t have focus or goals.  

6.  Properly set up the privacy settings and preferences within the social networking sites and websites. Use the features within Facebook to clean up problematic comments, wall posts, pictures, videos, notes, and tags.  Don't feel obligated to respond to messages and friend requests that are bothersome.  Disallow certain people from communicating with you or reading certain pieces of content you share, and allow access only to those you trust.  Turn off location-sharing and the ability to check-in to places; if you need to let your friends know your location, consider texting them personally rather than sharing it with your entire friend network.

7.  Search online for yourself on a regular basis to see what is out there about you.  Start with Google, but also use site-specific search engines on social networking sites, as well as sites that index personal information about Internet users.  These include, but are not limited to, youropenbook.org, booshaka.com, wink.com, pipl.com, peekyou.com, zabasearch.com, yoname.com, spokeo.com, and rapleaf.com.

8.  Start early in building a positive digital reputation.  Don't wait until you are a junior or senior in high school or college to clean up your profile page and posts.  This can be done in two ways: First, by avoiding the posting of inappropriate behaviors, pictures, or other content of you by yourself or other students, and second by participating in great school or community activities so when someone does search for you online, they find positive reports. 

9.  Create positive content. Do all you can to tie your name to activities that show the world you are a productive, contributing member of society. Figure out creative ways to set up and maintain an online reputation that brightly reflects your integrity.  

10.  Stay under the radar.  Use technology, but don't be used by technology by being what others want you to be or acting in ways you know are unwise - even if so many others are.  It is not worth the headache, stress, aggravation, regret, and possible problems with friends, family, schools, law enforcement, and society that could last a lifetime. Don't unnecessarily invalidate all that you've worked so hard for in a moment of haste or weakness or emotion.  In short, Pause Before You Post.


Scott also shared a few things that a victim should be aware of if they are ever in the situation of being cyberbullied:

1. Do not respond (things usually escalate when the victim responds)
2. Do not erase the postings, texts, etc.  (this will be proof down the road)
3. Tell an adult (cyberbullying is scary because you cannot escape it – every time you turn on your computer or phone you are bullied again.  Many kids think they can deal with it but after a while it breaks them down.  We encourage kids to tell an adult or tell a friend to tell an adult so they can get help)
4. Notify Facebook, YouTube, etc.  They will remove items pertaining to this topic b/c they do not want the negative publicity
5. Notify the police (especially in the case of phones – they will help get all the texting records)

We hope you find this information and these tips are helpful in understanding the online environment of your student and how you can help protect and educate them in coordination with Romulus Central School and Jostens. 

Also, for more detailed information and additional Q&A, visit Jostens.com/infotoknow. 


Sincerely,
Chris Puylara   Principal
Michael Pane  Dean of Students/Athletic Director