The current situation surrounding the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has created an important teachable moment for SLPs regarding internet communication. This is especially true because the controversy centers on an incident that took place when Christine Blasey Ford & Kavanaugh were teenagers.
I work primarily with older students in middle and high school, many of whom have social media pages. Most also text regularly as part of their social communication. Even if your students know more than you do about technology, you can still teach them how to communicate safely and effectively on the Internet. Here’s how you can help:
HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THAT ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION IS PERMANENT
Being careful what you send out into the wide electronic world seems intuitive to many people, but many of my students do not realize that the messages and pictures they post will be around forever. Even before social media was around, as seen with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, what he is alleged to have done 36 years ago is now national news. In contrast to paper documents that can be shredded or burned, an electronic record never goes away. Teens should also understand that photos and conversations they may consider to be private can be shared at any time, so they should think carefully about what they are posting.
HELP STUDENTS UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THEIR WORDS
Teens today need to be especially mindful of the enduring quality of their words and actions and understand that media posts are increasingly part of the college admission and job interview process. At least 10 prospective Harvard University students learned this the hard way last year when their dream school rescinded admission offers after they uncovered Facebook posts that were sexually explicit and mocked minorities. Colleges also make no secret that they visit applicant’s social media profiles, including Facebook and Instagram. What people say electronically through tweets, social media, posts, text messages and emails can be used against them in important ways.
HAVE A DISCUSSION ABOUT CYBERBULLYING
Cyberbullying is defined as “the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.” Using the internet to harass others is serious, sometimes criminal business. Whether they understand it or not, the perpetrators can be tracked down. Doing the right thing in public and private is crucial. A digital footprint will be with them forever.
Preparing our students to be effective communicators in public dialogue is part of our responsibility as SLPs. The Kavanaugh hearing helped me start a conversation about the power of words and the importance of effective communication. The only thing I know for sure is the conversation isn’t over!