Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Too much Information and not enough Guidance: Social Media Hangovers

Paris Brown, the 17 year old Youth police and crime commissioner resigned today over her ‘social media’ outbursts.

She was hired by Kent PCC Ann Barnes who thought that the role to be played by Paris so important that she funded part of her £15,000pa salary.

Ann Barnes did not, however, consider quite how a teenager might have used Social Media and appears to have offered little in the way of Information and Guidance to the now departed Paris. Before her appointment, no checks were made on Paris’s activity on line, no judicious pruning of the typical teenage outpourings before launching her into the world. 

This was poor judgement on Ms Barnes part and has made her look foolish; worse, it has destroyed the confidence of a young and very inexperienced young girl.

Had she been hired by a college or enrolled on a course, would Paris have suffered such a fate? This is where we come in.  When I say ‘we’ I mean teachers, lecturers, student support … colleges basically.

Students are completely unaware of their ‘digital footprint’ and the long lasting impact of the email rant, the 1am Instagram shot, the slightly tipsy Facebook Status update with obligatory semi-nude photograph attached and the oh so funny Tweet mocking someone, something or the first attempt at sarcasm.

Without good IaG, and a huge increase in teaching of digital & social media, we can expect to see much more of this; not in such a high profile role but more nonetheless.

Employers, who are generally much more ‘social media’ savvy than the Police Commissioner appears to be, will very quickly check on line for a candidates presence.  It is no defence to say ‘I didn’t mean it’ or ‘I was only 14 at the time’.

Colleges should be dealing with this now, in preparation for work and life. Email addresses would be a good place to start. The number of students who enrol into college with an email containing the words ‘sex’, ‘sexy’, ‘princess’ even ‘slut’ and ‘f**k’ on a couple of occasions (and no blushing as they write them either) need help to prepare for university or work. Are UCAS or a prospective employer going to be over-joyed to receive an application from ‘princessslutty@hotmail.com’? 

Perhaps not.

The law has recently changed to enable archiving of online material. What is written on line now, no longer disappears into the ether; it is there forever and doesn’t take an enormous amount of effort to dig it up, no matter how much you shut down your FB profile and limit past posts.

FE needs to develop far more awareness of IT, technical skills and social media and instil this into our students, now.

Paris Brown may have been the first casualty of the Social Media Hangover, she won’t be the last; hopefully, with our help, she will be one of the few.

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