On Tuesday, March 21, social media master Josh Ochs spoke to Laurel Springs students and parents on the topic of online safety in the digital age and the importance of creating and maintaining a positive “digital footprint,” or online presence.
Mr. Ochs, who is founder of MediaLeaders.com, a hub of information on marketing, tech, and advertising, as well as SafeSmartSocial.com, dedicated to “teaching students how to shine online,” offered advice including the importance of staying positive online.
He also discussed three “zones of concern” regarding apps (below).
Green Zone: This zone is populated by apps that can actually help students, ages 14 and older, impress future colleges or employers. These outlets, such as those listed below, can be positive for students, as these accounts are tied to their real identities and thus encourage better behavior. Such apps include, but are not limited to:
- Facebook: The world’s largest social media app wherein users can update with videos, links, status messages, and more.
- Instagram: Owned by Facebook, this app allows users to share photos and videos of up to one minute in length
- LinkedIn: Regarded by many as the go-to professional networking app.
- Pinterest: An app that provides a virtual “bulletin board” on which students can post about things they like
- Twitter: An online thought-sharing tool wherein users can share “tweets” of 140 characters or less
Gray Zone: This zone features apps that can be “good and bad,” as Ochs notes. These apps should be discussed between parents and students, with topics covered including appropriate content for sharing and productive behavior. These apps could be used for bullying or sharing viruses and should be utilized by students with advice and caution. Such apps include, but are not limited to:
- Minecraft: A gaming app based on the best-selling PC game of all time
- ly: An app that allows users to make lip-sync music videos
- Pokemon Go: An “augmented reality” app wherein users navigate the three-dimensional world in search of Pokemon characters hidden in locations in the real world
- Snapchat: An app wherein users can create and edit images or videos, with a set expiration date, to share with friends
- Vine: A platform for sharing 6-second videos
Red Zone: These apps are to be avoided as they are prone to misuse, cyberbullying, and predatory activity. Such apps include, but are not limited to:
- fm: This app allows users to set up a public profile, then let others anonymously comment on the user. This app provides fertile ground for cyberbullying.
- BurnBook: This app encourages visitors to post text, photos, or audio messages featuring rumors about others. Like Ask.fm, this app provides commenters ample opportunity to bully online.
- Kik Messenger: With this app, anyone can directly message a child, Ochs explained. All profiles are set to public by default, so information about a user can be very easy to find.
- Omegle: With the tagline, “Talk to strangers!” the inherent danger in this app is quite clear. Users have little to no control over what will be seen on the screen they encounter, so illicit and inappropriate material can be seen.
- Secret: This app, which has an age restriction of 17+ set by Apple, allows people to anonymously share messages with a circle of friends, friends of friends, or the public at large. Ochs cautions, however, that “anonymous” is not the same as “untraceable,” so students should very strongly avoid, even if “just joking,” any mention of illegal or illicit activity on these sites.
Remember that the first line of defense is always strong communication. If parents and students have mutual trust, then the student will feel comfortable addressing the parent should an issue arise in the real or digital world.
Above all, Ochs emphasized that the most important part of maintaining a positive digital footprint is to remain, yes, positive. Avoid negative commenting or engaging in the negativity of others. Produce positive content that is educational or informative, and encourage others to do the same. Such behavior will make the digital world a safer and more productive place for everyone.
To read more about Mr. Ochs and his programs visit his site at https://joshochs.com.