Towards creating a digital safety plan with youth

Last week I had the great honor of giving the Ethel A. Hall African American History Lecture at the University of Alabama School of Social Work. Dr. Karen Starks and the Diversity Committee at the University of Alabama School of Social Work invited me to campus to discuss my research on social media and gang violence. On my first night in Tuscaloosa, I had the opportunity to hang out with 30 youth and about 10 youth workers from the community to discuss the implications of my research for safe social media practices. We talked about everything from privacy, to adult supervision of social media use and how one curates identity online. The youth also had the opportunity to simulate being a digital qualitative researcher by analyzing publicly available Twitter posts from Chicago users. From this experience, the youth and adults in the room learned about the complexity of interpreting social media posts without having the appropriate context. Lastly, the youth came up with a digital safety plan to share with their peers across the country. Here are some of their ideas, in their own words:

  • When in doubt, do not post
  • Talk to family
  • Do not post private information
  • Don’t let emotions dictate what you post
  • Do not post everyday locations
  • Do not say negative things
  • Do not post while angry
  • Have a friend screen your post
  • Consider your audience
  • Limit time on social media
  • Think before you speak
  • Keep up a positive energy
  • Vent with friends before going to social media
  • Wait before you post (5 min)
  • Sleep on it, then speak on it
  • If you can’t explain it, do not post it
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