Technology has enabled anyone and everyone to instantly publish their personal writings and other creative endeavors. If you have ever written a blog entry, posted a comment or reply on a website, uploaded a video to YouTube, posted a comment or picture to Facebook, or uploaded an audio podcast to a website, you’ve participated in personal publishing.
Online publishing allows for quick and easy feedback from friends, adults, or even experts from around the world. The benefits of this new ability create some risks that you should be aware of. Take some time to pause before you post, so you can enjoy responsible personal publishing in a safe and productive manner.
Questions to ask before you post
- Who will be able to see what I post? Will anyone be embarrassed or hurt by it?
- What will my family or teachers say if they see what I post?
- How would I feel if the head of my dream job or school sees what I post?
- How would I feel if what I post is all over the news?
- Am I proud of what I’m posting?
- Do I have a clear conscience about what I’m posting?
- How would I feel if someone posted this about me?
Personal publishing guidelines
- Assume that everyone will see what you publish.
- Consider how people might use what you publish against you to cause you harm.
- Do not publish inappropriate language or gestures. You don’t want people to judge you negatively when they see your work.
- Do not publish something that you didn’t create.
Issues to Consider
Anything you publish could eventually be read and seen by anyone. Even though you may think that only certain people can access your posted content, you may be wrong because you do not have complete control over it once you write, print, send or post something. You never know who is looking over your friends’ shoulders, or if those friends might take the content, spread it around online, or use it against you.
Using a pseudonym (fake name) can disguise your identity while developing your writing or artistic skills. Technology has made it much easier to appear to publish something anonymously because you can use a screen name, alias, or temporary email address. However, just about everything that is published can be traced back to a specific person since everything done online has what is called a “digital footprint.” This footprint can enable authorities to discover where every piece of information on the Internet came from and who wrote/posted it.
What you publish may be seen by others for many years to come. This can be a huge benefit, but it can also be problematic if you publish something inappropriate, embarrassing or hurtful to others. Think about how you would feel if your parents, future college admissions office or employer saw what you published.
It is illegal to copy, use, or publish anything under your name that you did not personally create without getting permission from the author. If you are using someone else’s words or pictures, you should give them credit by acknowledging what they wrote or said, or get permission from the person who originally took the picture. This is more than just common courtesy; it is also the law.
Publishing our thoughts or ideas is a form of speech that is often protected by the First Amendment. Having the right to free speech, however, doesn’t mean that we can say whatever we want, whenever we want. You can’t, for example, publish threats against someone else or ruin their reputation.
Adapted from "A Student’s Guide to Personal Publishing" by Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. and Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., who educate teens and adults about the safe and responsible use of the Internet and other communications technology. Visit www.cyberbullying.us for more information.
As a leading printer of student-developed content, Jostens is committed to helping students develop journalism skills and understand the value as well as the responsibilities associated with publishing. Jostens is honored to present this expert advice to guide students and support educators and parents.