Guest Post by blogger Brian Jones who shares how The Bling Ring and Internet safety relate and how parents can use this film as a teachable moment.
The film The Bling Ring offers a teachable moment about internet safety. It premiered in selected New York and LA theaters on June 14th opens nationwide this Friday, June 21st. The film is based on the true story of a club-hopping group of teen burglars who helped themselves to the trappings of the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle. In fact, the group, nicknamed the Bling Ring, stole more than $3 million in jewelry and clothing from the homes of celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, including more than $2 million from Paris Hilton alone.
Interestingly, social media sites not only contributed to the Bling Ring crimes by fostering celebrity envy; the fashionable gang of teens actually orchestrated their intrusions in large part by using publicly accessible posts they found on social media sites.
Children and teens have grown up in the age of social media and feel very comfortable using these sites on a regular basis. However, the potential danger of social networking sites is no new story. Crimes committed with the help of social media range from profile hacking to robbery. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips you can share with your kids and use to teach them how to live safely with social media.
When Sharing Is a Bad Thing:
When it comes to social media, sharing is not always a good thing. Teens are often tempted to post every detail of their whereabouts on sites like Facebook or Twitter, especially when their friends are doing it too, but posts like, “Going to Maddie’s house until eleven!” or “Heading to the lake house for the weekend!” can actually tip off criminals and leave your home more vulnerable. The real-life members of the Bling Ring used social media posts like these to keep track of their victims’ schedules. When celebrities posted about leaving their homes, the teens knew which times were most opportune for burglarizing.
Privacy is King:
The cardinal rule of social networking is privacy, privacy, privacy. Help your teens navigate through the privacy settings on social media sites, and decide which settings provide the most security. It is possible to make status updates available only to “friends” on Facebook and it is possible to “lock” tweets on Twitter, so they can only be viewed by an approved audience. Of course, privacy settings are useful only if kids monitor who they are “friends” with on social media sites. Remind your teens to accept friend requests only from people they know and trust.
What Would Grandma Say?
Sometimes the threats of social media are less immediate and more long-term. Things posted on the Internet are never truly erased and can potentially be viewed by future employers. In fact, a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com found that 37% of employers check social networking sites when screening possible job candidates. Instruct your kids to follow a helpful rule of thumb when posting on social media by asking themselves, “What would Grandma say if she saw this post?”
A New Kind of Bullying:
Social networking sites can also be a threat to your child’s emotional and psychological well-being. The rise of social media has been accompanied by a rise in a new type of bullying called cyber-bullying. Online bullying makes it easy for bullies to target their victims from a virtual distance, with a less immediate threat of repercussions. Cyber-bullying is a very real danger for many kids and has even led to suicide in extreme cases. Remind your kids that they can always talk to you if they feel threatened by a cyber-bully. It is also important to talk to your kids about the very real consequences of online bullying, and that bullying from behind a computer screen is no less harmful than bullying at school or on the playground.
The premiere of The Bling Ring provides an excellent opportunity to talk with your children about ways to stay safe online. Just a few simple precautions can help keep social networking both safe and fun.
You can follow Brian Jones on Twitter at @BriJones85.