24 Mar SOCIAL MEDIA 201 FOR PARENTS
It is almost inevitable that at some point every teenager will write something on a social media site that they regret. It is just too hard for them to have the maturity and presence of mind to resist entering the fray. (“How dare they say that!”, “I was just defending a friend!”, “But Mum no-one else can see it!”) We have all seen the result – World War III has erupted and things quickly get out of hand.
Teenagers tend to forget that when they are online they are operating in a very public domain. What they post (written messages and photos) still exists years later, even if they have been “deleted”. Online posts are often forwarded onto other friends. “Private” Facebook posts can go viral within minutes, and as a school principal I have seen many examples where a nasty online message was sent to dozens (sometimes hundreds) of “friends”, seriously affecting many families.
Thoughtful, sensitive children will almost certainly come unstuck using social media sites such as Facebook. There is great peer pressure and social media sites have been responsible for countless thousands of acts of cyber-bullying. The combination of youth and freedom is dangerous and it is vitally important that we, as responsible parents, are well informed about the dangers of teenagers using social media sites.
Then there is the phenomenon of “Like”. What are you really doing when you “like” a post? Some of it is fun and innocent, but much is not. Here are some issues to consider;
- A “like” reduces all issues on social media to simple agree/disagree responses. Most issues are far more complex than this.
- A “like” replaces thinking with feeling. Instead of someone making a thoughtful response to something of presumed value, they merely have to reply with their heart rather than their mind. Again, this can lead to misunderstandings.
- “Liking” can alienate someone who does not necessarily agree with the prevailing mood. There is great peer pressure to “go along to get along”. Many teenagers will “like” a post because their online friends have done so; regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the content of the post.
Remember it’s not an outrageous invasion of privacy to monitor our children’s online presence; it’s just responsible parenting.