Dustianne North, M.S.W. | Bay Area Symposium | Mentoring Relationships and Social Media | September 2012Tips, Tools and RecommendationsStrong Boundaries in the mentoring relationship:Maintain strong boundaries with mentees when interacting online, as they canbecome blurred in a virtual world. In particular, mentors need to be careful aboutdisclosing private aspects of their lives to mentees through social media. Somepractical ways to do this include: Consider having a secondary profile (on Facebook, etc) that is appropriate for you to connect with mentees, while keeping your primary account for personal connections in your private life. If mentors choose to connect with mentees on social networking, privacy settings can be modified so that mentees cannot see photos, posts and status updates in which mentor is “tagged.” If mentors want to keep their private profiles unviewable by mentees, consider choosing privacy settings that prevent anyone but “friends” or “friends of friends” from viewing your profile picture, and ensuring only “friends” can send messages or friend requests. Be mindful that mentee’s parents/guardians may also be monitoring your public profile. If they view something on the mentor’s page that leads them to question the mentor’s judgment, it can jeopardize the mentee-mentor relationship, and the youth’s participation in the mentoring program. Consider not only your own postings, but postings of friends that may be visible publicly, to the mentee or mentee’s family.Promoting Privacy and Safety:Mentor programs may also promote privacy and safety in online forums they create: Create private “group” pages on social networking sites that only invited members can join or view, protecting the privacy of those in the group. Scrutinize friend requests. Review the profiles of people or groups who ask to list your program as a “friend”. You can decline the request of a would-be friend if there is inappropriate material on the group’s site, it would not be a good fit for the network, or it otherwise would reflect poorly on your program.
Dustianne North, M.S.W. | Bay Area Symposium | Mentoring Relationships and Social Media | September 2012 Mentoring organizations might be more apt to use a Facebook fan page, blog, or YouTube channel to share news, photos, and videos rather than sharing personal profiles with mentees.Mentors can assist and advise mentees about how to protect their own privacy andboundaries online, and online relationships may offer mentors a way to know moreabout what is happening in their mentees’ lives: Mentors should be aware of whether mentees are spending too much time online and/or participating in inappropriate chat rooms. Mentees may need to be reminded that once they post photos of themselves or spread gossip about others in cyberspace, there is no way to “take it back,” and serious repercussions can follow them for many years. Keep in mind that that if a mentor sees something on a mentee’s page that indicates the youth may be in danger of harming themselves or others, the mentor is responsible for reporting it to the appropriate authorities or parents/guardians. Discuss the importance of keeping passwords private. 30% of online teens, especially teen girls, report sharing their password with a friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Supplement parents’ advice to their teens to encourage teens to be safe and private online.Ways to communicate with teens online: 1 77% of teens own cell phones One in four teens own smartphones Most teens are texting 60-100 times per day, so texting is the most common form of daily communication for teens with everyone in their lives. 20% of teens say they don’t or cannot talk on a landline. 29% of teens communicate daily through messages on social network sites instead of emailing. 39% of teens say they never exchange email.Social media may be an effective way to reach homeless youth, as an estimated 75%of homeless youth are actively using social media.1 Lenhart, A. (2012). Teens, Smartphones & Texting. Pew Internet & American Life Project, Pew Research Center.Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Teens-and-smartphones.aspx
Dustianne North, M.S.W. | Bay Area Symposium | Mentoring Relationships and Social Media | September 2012Previous discussions on this topic have also suggested that foster youth stay intouch online when their placements and circumstances unexpectedly change, andeven when they drop out of the system and “go underground”. 2Therefore, there are many methods of communicating electronically. Mentors can and should ask mentees what methods of communication are best for reaching them and connecting with them. While speaking face-to-face is best, it can be beneficial to make initial plans or simply be available by the methods that teens use most.Effective mentor-mentee social media communication: Regular, face-to-face interaction is often most effective, but bonds between mentor and mentee can be nurtured by connecting online. Sending e-mails or text messages should not become a substitute for face-to- face social interaction, and mentors can be very helpful in assisting mentees with basic social and communication skills. Mentors should consider their role and influence on youth when connecting through social networking Be clear in your writing When communicating online with mentee, make sure you are clear in your writing as you do not have body language or tone of voice to help express what you mean. Be concise and clear in your writing, and make sure you clarify when appropriate. Emoticons can be a fun way to remedy this problem, but be careful as these still do not substitute for face-to-face communication. Maintain professionalism You can maintain professionalism by making sure to proofread your writing, as hasty emails show lack of time or effort by the mentor. Keep records of your communications, which will help you keep track of your mentoring relationship’s progress, and serve as a reference when needed. Always reply2 Creedon, A. (2012). 75 Percent of Homeless Youth Use Social Media, Study Indicates. Nonprofit Quarterly, Sept7, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/20955-75-percent-of-homeless-youth-use-social-media-study-indicates.html
Dustianne North, M.S.W. | Bay Area Symposium | Mentoring Relationships and Social Media | September 2012 Reply as promptly as possible when you receive communication from your mentee. If you are pressed for time, send a short message saying you are presently busy but you will make time to reply as soon as you can. Do not engage in conflict with mentee online. If there are issues in the relationship that need to be addressed, it is best to address them in person, as it is too easy for words to be misconstrued when a difficult topic is being discussed electronically. Do not multi-task when communicating with your mentee, even though they cannot see you when you are typing or writing. Be mindful of your responses by focusing on one thing at a time: your mentee. Keep in mind that electronic messages do not include the nonverbal cues present in face-to-face communication, so the intended message can be misinterpreted by the reader. 3 Start a message with a friendly greeting ("Hello," "Hi," "Dear [name]," etc.). Place at the end of a sentence to tell recipients that your comment is meant to be humorous, or insert other appropriate "emoticons" to take the place of facial expressions or gestures. Rarely use all capital letters in a message. Capitalizing all letters in one word infers strong emphasis, but capitalizing all letters in an entire message is like yelling at someone in person. Read through a mentee’s entire message carefully and ask questions about anything you dont understand, before composing your reply.Assisting Youth via Online Resources and Interactions: Sometimes, explain why you communicated a particular message using a particular media in a particular way—model for youth, and teach them, how to effectively use online communication and when not to. Share websites you think your mentee might find helpful or interesting. Combatting Bullying and Harassment:3 DO-IT, University of Washington. (2002-2012). What are tips for making online mentoring successful?University of Washington. Seattle, WA. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/doit/articles?441.
Dustianne North, M.S.W. | Bay Area Symposium | Mentoring Relationships and Social Media | September 2012 Talk with mentees about their experiences online. Look for indications that they may be experiencing harassment or bullying online- especially among girls. If a youth is experiencing cruelty through social media, don’t ignore it! Show support, validate their experiences, and offer solutions. Assist them to deal with conflicts they have had or are having with friends and family members online. Help them understand privacy issues and online boundariesTeens and Online Video Take video of your activities with youth, or of their extra-curricular activities, and post these online for them to enjoy. They will know you are proud of them and cherish your time with them. Help youth produce their own home videos, music recordings, poetry readings, etc. Video chatting, such as on Skype or Facetime, may be a great way to connect with mentees if meeting in person is not an option. Approximately 1/3 of teens use video chat applications.