What You Can Learn About Internet Safety from Weiner

You can learn from your mistakes. Boomers know that. We have had plenty of life experience to learn from. You can also learn from the mistakes of others. What can we learn from Congressman Weiner’s mistakes?

Nothing you put on the internet is private.

This does not mean avoid the internet. It means manage your online reputation by not putting things online that you would not want others to see.

Do no write emails, texts, tweets or Facebook posts that you would not want to see in a newspaper. Never post anything online when you are drunk or otherwise impaired.

Much general discussion of “sexting” has come with the Weiner incident. Sexting was originally coined in 2005 to refer to texting sexually explicit language or photos. But today’s news discussions have broadened the term, applying it to sending photos or language of a sexual nature through the internet on a variety of platforms. It is still thought to be primarily related to mobile phone communication. With a smart phone, the internet is on your phone.

Representative Weiner is taking a leave of absence to enter treatment for his sext addiction. But his problem is not medical. It is technological.

Our politicians should be computer literate and internet savvy. These skills are essential to almost every job in today’s economy. Internet activities, both local and global, play a part in economic, PR and other concerns that affect politicians at all level of government.

We launched the Boomer Tech Talk project because it is essential that we all learn social media skills. Understanding social media includes understanding how to manage your reputation online. You do this by publishing things online that you want to see associated with your name. The more the better.

If you are a parent of teenage children you might want to have a talk with them about the impact of what they put online. Of course, this would include the dangers of “sexting.” The current Weiner news creates an opportunity for a quiet, rational discussion of the dangers of sending or allowing provocative photos to be taken of them. There was a flurry of research on teenage sexting in 2009 by Pew Research and others. This page from the Crisis Intervention Center might help you. The truth is that anything from 2009 is already out of date. Technology just keeps rushing forward. But it gives you some perspective into the teen environment of today.

The guy or gal who seems so sweet and trustworthy today might want to show a trophy photo of you off to their friends tomorrow. People get mad and do stupid things. It is dangerous to assume that someone who is requesting or taking a suggestive photo or video of you today will never get mad at you. People fight. Things happen.

It could be argued that Anthony Weiner wanted to get caught. Unless you want to risk getting caught, we recommend that you do your frisky flirts in person.


  • http://twitter.com/TechyDad TechyDad

    “Nothing you put on the internet is private.”

    This is too true.  Even if you do send an item (be it a letter or photo of yourself) to someone via a private channel, they can easily send it on to another person or to a lot of people in a very public manner (copy/paste, forwarding or just accidentally typing the “d @Username” wrong in Twitter).

    This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t send private messages ever, but think “how would I react if this became public” before sending.  If you’re sending “Should we order a pizza for dinner tonight” to your spouse, you’re safe.  If that went public, there’d be no fallout.  If, however, you’re direct messaging a picture of your privates to a woman that’s not your wife, the fallout is potentially huge.

    Direct messages are more private than public messages, but they are not absolutely private.  Nothing is anymore (for good or ill).

    • http://ItsDifferent4girls.com Linda Sherman

      Thank you very much for your astute and well-explained warnings regarding private messaging. Anything can be forwarded.

      Even a voice mail can be captured as an audio file for distribution – as celebrities like Alec Baldwin have learned to their chagrin during family squabbles.

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Very valuable post Linda.  As the dad of two teens, I am always trying to caution my older son to STOP putting stupid photos of himself and/or cussing all the time on his Facebook Page.  We all know that future employers “employ” searches of potential employees and that includes internet activity.  WHY leave yourself “exposed?”  Weiner is just a jerk of the highest order and the most recent public example.  Be careful!

  • Bill Draeger

    The ” (things) you would not want to see in a newspaper” analogy is very good.  Everyone should keep that in mind before they hit enter or click send.

  • David W.

    Good points and suggestions.  My own approach to this matter of making one’s self secure in the world of social media is to not get involved with social media at all.  To me, a tweet is still a sound a bird makes…or the way Elmer Fudd would refer to a snack…!

  • http://www.retirementstory.com/ Janett Brown

    Yes, I totally agree. There are many perverts on the internet. And we need to be careful. We can think of the internet as an extension to the real world. In the real world, we can find good and evil people. It’s the same thing on the internet. But, don’t let the evil guys make you hate the online world. There are many good stuffs that you can get from the internet. You can even get a job online and get paid. 😉