By: Leslie Duncan Blake On: March 04, 2015 In: Social Media Comments: 0

Teen Girls on Smart Phone

Teenagers do stupid things sometimes. This is not a revolutionary thing to say, and it is not unique to today’s teens. It’s just a fact of life. The teenage years are a time to find boundaries by pushing them, and that often involves saying or doing something ridiculous. As a mom, I’m all too familiar with this fact.

Think about the dumbest thing you did in your teenage years. Remember that time your friends convinced you to break the rules, or when raging hormones drove you to say something uncharacteristically offensive. What if your current bosses, clients, friends, and family could see it all?

In a world where social media is king, that’s exactly the type of future today’s kids face. Every thought becomes a tweet. Every dumb action becomes a video on YouTube. And it all stays in the public record forever.

Delete Button

Sure, you can press the delete button, but it is nearly impossible to truly erase anything from the Internet. Consider this: the Library of Congress records of every single tweet that is sent, even the ones that are deleted. Anyone interested in reading any of the hundreds of billions of tweets can easily access them.

That’s just one of the many ways what we post online stays public forever. Screenshots, cache copies, and search engines designed specifically to find deleted posts all ensure that no online content ever truly disappears. So what does that mean for today’s youth?

In short, it means that everything they do has the potential to follow them around for the rest of their lives. Although they may change, grow, and mature as they transition into adulthood, prospective employers will be able to judge them based on who they were as teens. This issue has already caused trouble for many young people.

A recent survey found that 1 in 10 young people were rejected for a job because of something they posted on social media. As these communication platforms become more pervasive and easily accessible, it’s reasonable to expect that these numbers may continue to rise. This is an alarming thought to any parent.

What teens post online could also affect their college prospects. Scott Fitch, the basketball coach at Fairport High School, realized this about three years ago when one of his players lost the chance at a college scholarship. When the concerned coach asked why, he was told that one of the student’s tweets did not represent the university.

The tweet in question was not criminal or drug-related in any way. It was just a teen using foul language and not thinking before posting. Since then, Fitch has dedicated himself to teaching students and parents about social media. As Brandon Chambers, an assistant men’s basketball coach at Marymount (Virginia) University, wisely tweeted, “Never let a 140 character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship.”

Father and son on laptop

So what can parents do to help their children create smart social media habits? Education is the key to success here. First, teach yourself everything you can about social media. Know which platforms your children are using, and understand how each of them work.

Then, educate your children about the dangers of social media. Teach them to value privacy. Help them understand that how they present themselves today will affect who they become. Most importantly, make it an ongoing conversation.

There is no doubt that social media is changing the way children and teens will experience the world. In many ways, it can be daunting for parents to raise kids in such an environment. However, with knowledge and open communication, we can all navigate these choppy waters and sail into a bright future.