As an internet marketer and an amateur news hound, I come across lots of stories about life and social media every day. The recent suicide of a Rutgers University freshman made headlines. His roommate and another student posted a sex video of him online and then tweeted about it. Sadly, the victim reacted by jumping from a bridge. Charges are being levied against the students broadcasting the video. These “kids” could get up to 5 years in jail for something they probably considered a joke. Beyond being totally gross and upsetting, this case brings out what we parents must teach to our children about social media.
1. If your post contains something about someone else (picture, video or even words), have they given or would they give you permission to post? If not, STOP!
This is a difficult thought process for young people. It’s part of their development both mentally and physically. Where do they draw the line? Studies have shown the part of the brain controlling judgment doesn’t fully develop until the early-20’s. The general society around our youth help generate guidelines of acceptable behavior for every day living. However, the rapid growth of social media has provided a channel to communicate and express themselves with no pre-set limitations. It’s important for parents to talk about limitation for social media use. Otherwise, the youth don’t have any.
2. For this post you are about to make, would you want to have your grandmother (or grandchild) read it? Would they understand what you are talking about? If not, STOP!
Some posts are just plain silly, but silliness can get out of hand. Remember the words you use to describe a hobby, may be taken totally differently by someone not familiar with the hobby. My sons like to play aero-soft (a saner version of paintball). There is a massive amount of gear involved from various rifles and handguns to protective gear to keep you safe and hidden from your opponents. While I’m thankful they are out in the woods playing games instead of doing them on an X-box from the couch in the living room, it would be patently inappropriate to post pictures online with their guns or videos of their personal adventures. They also need to be careful of their word choices in sharing about their adventures online. Taken at a glance some of their uncensored comments could make them sound like they’re building a militia. This is not their intent and they’re just innocently playing around with each other.
3. Does this post best represent you? If not, STOP!
I believe in years to come, the majority of our reputation will be gathered from online materials. This process is already starting to happen as the Library of Congress catalogs our Twitter tweets and as employers search Facebook, blogs, and other resources to better screen prospective employee. Parents need to teach their youth of the permanence of their online postings. Even though the accounts have been cancelled on Twitter for the suicide case mentioned at the beginning of this post, you can still find it today in Google’s Cache. Even though it was cancelled, Twitter still retains the archive of the account and every tweet placed there.
Personally, I believe social media has made it much more difficult for our young people. With much freedom comes much responsibility. Social media provides an unprecedented amount of communication freedom, but much of our youth is unprepared and untrained to handle it. Take a few minutes at the dinner table tonight and chat about these three rules. You’ll be amazed what you learn from your youth.
In closing, I’d like to share a blog from a mother to her daughter. It was sent after reading of the tragic suicide at Rutgers. I’ve shared it with my boys and hope you can share it, too.
It focuses on the most important thing we can give our children in this social media age: love.