This post was written for Writing 101, Day 5: Respond to a quote…
“Just as we teach our children how to ride a bike, we need to teach them how to navigate social media and make the right moves that will help them. The physical world is similar to the virtual world in many cases. It’s about being aware. We can prevent many debacles if we’re educated.” —Amy Jo Martin
The great thing about social media is that it is (for the most part) public. We can see what others are posting, saying, doing, thinking. Social media allows us to navigate a different world—to create a persona, if you will, of how we see ourselves or would like to be seen. Because it is so public, it provides great lessons for parents who are willing to trot out their ‘friends’ as examples, both good and bad.
A few years back, a young acquaintance of ours made an impulsive tweet in a moment of adolescent thoughtlessness. Hundreds of miles away, his tweet was picked up by people paid by our federal government to monitor such things, and he ended up squarely in the center of their radar. By the time he arrived at his first class of the school day, the local police were there to meet him. His parents were called, and ultimately, he was asked to quietly withdraw himself from the school—a private institution—and finish his senior year elsewhere.
What parent wouldn’t use this incident as an example for his or her children? Granted, this is an extreme example, but nothing that ends up on the Internet is private. Or unmonitored. Or irretrievable. If SnapChat postings actually did “disappear,” the terms and conditions wouldn’t ask users to agree to allow them to store all posts forever. But who reads the terms and conditions, right?
Every now and then, I see things on the Facebook sites or blog posts of the adult crowd. “I don’t think she should have shared that,” I grumble to my children. “Her children might not be on Facebook, but their friends and their friends’ parents are….” I wonder sometimes if people consider the ramifications of the things they post.
As C prepares for college, he is going out into a different world—his own world, away my watchful eye, where he has to make his own decisions and create his own identity and purpose. What I don’t want is for him to suddenly find that his Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, or whatever are under scrutiny and not be prepared for that. This is the world in which we live, Friends. If you are putting yourself on the Internet for people to see, you very well may fall under scrutiny. That scrutiny may mean that you are held as an example within the private world of your “friends,” or it may have much bigger implications.
This lesson is one that each of us—teen or adult—will benefit from keeping in the forefront of our minds as we venture ever further into the virtual world.