We wrote a post back in 2014 titled, “Why Is My Teen Using a Pseudonym on Social Media?” It was true then, and it’s true now, that some internet users of all ages use anonymous accounts. Some have nefarious reasons (trolling, cyberbullying, illegal or subversive activity), and some are completely harmless and just want to speak their mind or lurk in peace.
Yesterday, a visitor to our website left the comment below in response to the post.
“It’s actually largely inappropriate for teenagers to be using public social media *without* using pseudonyms. Few adults would wish to be held accountable and judged for their thoughts and actions while they were teenagers, but making public posts to the Internet under your real name in fact creates a permanent record.
So teens should be taught to always use pseudonyms as part of learning to use the Internet in a safe and responsible manner.”
The commenter, while anonymous, appears to be affiliated with an organization that is dedicated to defending civil liberties online. We’re big fans to teens having civil liberties, including the freedom to post publicly on age-appropriate online forums.
In short, we disagree with the commenter. Here are some of the reasons:
We are doing a disservice to teens if we don’t stress the importance of having a positive online identity. College admissions officers (possible) and future employers (probable) could be checking a teen or young adult’s digital footprint to gain insight into character and qualifications, and they aren’t just looking for negatives. In fact, according to a recent survey, 38% of employers who check social media have found something that makes them more likely to hire a candidate.
According to the same survey, researchers found that it is increasingly a red flag if recruiters can’t find someone online. It is either a signal that the person has something to hide, or a sign that the person is digitally incompetent or unconnected. You don’t want your teen to come off as being either.
Anonymity breeds bad behavior. A study last year found that anonymous internet commenters were twice as likely to use “language that was vulgar, racist, profane or hateful.” Of course, most teens won’t do that, but when you believe you’re anonymous, you might give into the temptation to unload on someone or use inappropriate language.
There is a chance that he will be found out. If your teen is conducting himself online with the belief that nobody knows who he is, and he is found out, that opens up a whole new can of worms. There are hackers out there who are happy to do it just for kicks, or because you’ve posted something that they disagree with. It is called doxing, and it happens.
It’s called social media for a reason. Teens are so active online because that it increasingly how they connect and share with their friends and make new ones. It’s pretty difficult to meaningfully connect with anyone when you’re anonymous.
It is possible to teach teens to respect others and act appropriately in the real world. It’s also possible to do the same with their online activity, and teach them how to stay safe. Rather than hiding behind a pseudonym, let’s teach them to do just that. As parents, it’s our job.
If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.