Internet Safety Month – Teen Dana Padilla on Her Road to Cyber Safety Ambassador

ASKfm is celebrating Internet Safety Month in June with a Q&A series offering different perspectives on some of the most-talked about issues relating to teens being smart and safe online. Today’s post comes from Dana Padilla, a 17-year old Cyber Safety Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Club of America’s annual Cyber Safe Futures campaign, a digital campaign aimed to raise Internet safety awareness among parents. She shares how she became a Cyber Safety Ambassador and what she thinks teens might forget when it comes to using social media.

How did you get involved with the Cyber Safe Futures project and become an ambassador? What are your responsibilities as an ambassador?

I’m a member of the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor at the Port of Los Angeles, and through the organization, stumbled across the application for the Cyber Safety Ambassador for the Cyber Safe Futures campaign, an annual Internet safety initiative led by Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Sprint. I’m really interested in helping our youth and making a difference, which ultimately led me to apply and put so much passion into my application and my role as a Cyber Safe Ambassador.

My job as an ambassador is to respond to questions that parents and teens ask about the Internet. I share ways to stay safe online and inform them of the dangers associated with being on the Internet through videos, as well as written posts. Being an ambassador gives me an opportunity to talk with my peers and teach them what I’ve learned through personal experiences. It’s also a chance for me to give back and help protect our youth from risks they may come across online.

What question(s) do you get asked most as a Cyber Safe Ambassador?

Question topics range anywhere from the most popular social media sites, to focusing on a specific personal situation that someone might need advice on. I put a lot of thought into answering these questions because I want them to be relatable.

If a parent is asking a question about their teen, I need to think about an answer not only from the perspective of a parent, but also the perspective of a teen and how we’d like to be addressed about the Internet and its consequences.

Who or what organization first taught you about staying safe online?

My parents had always warned me about the many dangers of social media by sharing news articles and dangerous situations that have led many children to harm. We had frequent conversations about who I was talking to on the Internet.

Knowing that not everyone online will be who they say they are made me realize that the best bet for staying safe is not to have contact with anyone aside from friends and family.

What do you think teens often forget when it comes to using social media safely?

The most common misconception about social media and the Internet in general is that a post can simply be deleted and disappear. Unfortunately, any content posted on the Internet is officially in cyberspace forever and can be tracked 10 years down the road, even if you thought you had deleted it.

When do you think parents and schools should first start talking about social media with kids?

Schools and parents need to look out for kids’ trends to decide when these talks are necessary. We don’t want to encourage social media usage at a young age, but we do need to observe when children and teens begin to use them regularly, which is the best time to bring up the topic of Internet safety!

Why do you think teens (or people in general) like to use anonymous features or sites?

Anonymous features on sites lead to the assumption that someone can say absolutely anything without any repercussions for their actions. Teens feel a sense of empowerment from knowing that the receiver will never discover who sent them that anonymous message. Though this assumption isn’t accurate, I think the idea appeals to teens and draws them to such sites.

What are your favorite social media accounts to follow and why?

My favorite social media account is Facebook! Facebook is the easiest and fastest way to keep in contact with family that may not live a quick drive away. Aside from Facebook, Twitter is one of the largest sources I receive my current events or news information. Updates are instantaneous and discussions are constant!

In addition to friends and family, I follow lots of accounts like FEE and CNN to keep updated on news worldwide. I also follow funny Vine accounts just for a good laugh from time to time!

Dana Padilla, 17, is a member of the Boys & Girls Club of the Los Angeles Harbor at the Port of Los Angeles. At the Club, Dana is active in a variety of programs focused on leadership development, academic success, career preparation and community service. Based on her leadership skills and commitment to helping others, Dana was selected to be one of four Cyber Safety Ambassadors from around the world, a panel of Boys & Girls Club teens from around the world, who answer parents’ questions from a teen’s perspective on to help avoid risky situations for their kids and teens online.