Chances are, if you live anywhere in Canada, you’ve heard something about the controversy going on with the Dalhousie dentistry students. For those who haven’t heard, apparently, some of the 4th year, male students of the program had a Facebook group in which some offensive, unethical and just plain unprofessional things were expressed about females in general, and also specific to several of the female students in the class.
Since the story broke, we’ve had several conversations with our kids about what you post online and the permanence of it – every post you make is like a tattoo, no matter how “private” you think it is. The content of the posts is awful. But aside from that, I made the point that putting anything of that nature online is not only wrong, but just not smart. It’s scary for me to think the message about the importance of being safe and responsible with what you post online isn’t getting through to kids…and clearly, not to some adults, either.
Our conversations at home about this story have centered around making choices and the consequences that go with those choices and our kids seem to understand the students were wrong for posting what they did. They were, however, a bit shocked at how extreme the potential punishment was…”kicking them out of school could ruin their lives, Mom.” Yup. That’s what happens when you don’t make smart choices – you have consequences. I guess I can see why my kids feel expelling the students might be extreme…they’re kids and as such, there are always second chances (or third, fourth…) and not allowing the students to graduate after all the money and time they’ve put into it…it’s a huge and really awful thing. But we keep reiterating to them that it’s exactly the reason you have to make sure to listen to what you’re being told about online safety and professionalism. Expectations change drastically as you get older, the stakes get higher and you will be held accountable for your actions. This is why school boards put so much time into educating kids about it. It’s a BIG deal. I just worry about how much kids are actually hearing and understanding…even at the high school level.
Every time an adult talks about their childhood, the common point is “how much harder it was for us when we were kids”….I told my kids that this is one way it was easier for the generations before them. Kids did stupid things, everyone does at one time or another – it’s how we learn. But for us, we didn’t have to worry about the everlasting “proof”, or tattoo, of that stupid thing. We didn’t have pictures, or group chats posted online for someone to find years after it happened and bring up/repost again and again. It lasted just long enough for someone else to do a stupid thing.
Anything you post online is like a tattoo on your social media presence – it’s forever. I can’t imagine how anyone that far into their education (and the ages of 25, 26, 27, or older!) hasn’t learned that yet. NOTHING on the internet is private. There is no such thing as a “private” chat room, or “private” message…when it is done on the internet, it can ALWAYS become public and will last forever – all it takes is a screenshot and it can be shared to billions of people in seconds. Kids have to know that if the messages they write, pictures they share, or comments they put online aren’t something they want publicly known, then DON’T POST IT! Otherwise, one day, these online tattoos could come back to haunt them.
Tell your kids…and keep telling them.