Digital Culture Expert Sameer Hinduja Addresses School

Sameer Hinduja, an expert on cyberbullying and online culture, met with the St. Paul’s School community in Memorial Hall on April 21 to discuss the pros and cons of living in the digital age. His interactive lecture titled “Not Cool: Things You Don’t Want to Be Doing Online,” was presented as part of the School’s Living in Community (LINC) curriculum.
 
It only takes a click to send a snap or tweet a message to thousands, but that action can lead to unwanted consequences.
 
Hinduja, a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, referred to teens as digital natives, those who have been raised in a technology-inundated culture. Though this generation is fluent in the latest apps and chat forums, adolescents are not always aware of the inherent risk associated with their use.
 
He shared some startling usage statistics. In 2015, nearly 9,000 snaps were sent via Snapchat per second, and 400 minutes of video were uploaded to YouTube per second. Snapchat also eclipsed Instagram as the teen social media platform of choice in 2016. 
 
Hinduja encouraged the group to pause before posting. To underscore this advice, he pointed to real-life examples of young people who have been penalized for their online behaviors: College athlete Buck Burnette was kicked off the University of Texas football team after making a racist post on Facebook; former New England Patriots cheerleader Caitlin Davis was fired from the team’s cheer squad for a picture posted on Facebook that showed her at a party posing next to a person passed out, and covered in offensive and anti-Semitic scribbles; and Yuri Wright, a promising private high school athlete from New Jersey, was expelled from school after he posted a foul-mouthed rant on Twitter.
 
Poor choices don’t need to make headlines in order to have a negative impact. According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey of 422 college admissions officers, 35 percent said they searched social media as part of the review process, and 16 percent said they discovered content that had a negative impact an applicant’s prospects.
 
But, as Hinduja discussed, erasing an online presence isn’t a solution. Figures from a study by CareerBuilder.com showed that a presence on the Internet is a must for this generation. Fifty-two percent of employers use social media to research job candidates, and 35 percent of employers said they are less likely to interview someone if they can’t find them online.
 
So what can be done?
 
Social media can be empowering, said Hinduja, but kids need proper instruction before given access to such platforms. He suggested teens fight back against undesirable online comments and content with positive actions. For example, start a compliment page instead of a confessions page on Facebook, and speak up and intervene when posts get out of hand.

To learn more about Sameer and his work, visit www.hinduja.org.
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