It’s easy to feel a sense of detachment when scrolling through your Facebook page. You get to ignore the things that don’t interest you, read more about the posts that pique your interest and comment on threads without thinking twice. It’s also easy to forget that there are real people posting and reading. That’s one aspect to social media which has the potential to lead to negative consequences. Your teens may need to be reminded of this.
Making up rules where none exist
Rules and etiquette don’t really exist on social media channels. The etiquette even varies between the channels themselves; Facebook updates and interactions are very different to those on Twitter, for example. If your teen is using a social media channel (or more than one) you should chat about what’s acceptable for them to put out there and what isn’t.
There are horror stories of people finding out on social media that a family member had passed away. Imagine flicking your way through amusing videos of kids face-planting and pictures of cats when you come across a picture of your son/mother/brother/daughter/father with the caption “R.I.P.”. This badly-considered status update will forever be part of your experience of loss.
If you find out that someone has recently passed away, don’t jump on the internet to share the “news”. The responsibility for that belongs to the deceased person’s closest family. Don’t share intimate details about what happened either, it’s disrespectful to expose a dead person’s life and death online. This is true of their emotional, mental and physical health. You wouldn’t want details of your life online if you weren’t able to correct those “facts”.
A common guideline about photos is that you don’t take someone else’s and post it as your own. Give credit. If you’re posting pictures of other people, consider asking their permission before tagging them in the pictures as not everyone likes to have their picture on social media. This applies especially to pictures of children. In some cases, the person in the picture may even have a restraining order against another person, and the image may compromise their safety.
Images depicting teens doing something illegal or stupid also don’t belong on social media. Drinking, doing drugs, nudity or breaking the law are all inappropriate as images of teens doing any of these could have a huge impact on those kids in future, including their ability to study or find work.
Images of road accidents or other accidents are also not appropriate. A picture of a person injured or killed in an accident could find its way back to that person’s family members.
Online bullying is not acceptable. Even if you think you’re the one in the right, attacking someone else online isn’t a mature way of dealing with interpersonal relationships or disagreements. At worst, a crowd of people can gang up on an individual and cause immense distress to that person. Being alone in your room does not separate you from a responsibility to treat others with consideration. You can always walk away from an online argument. Victims of online bullying can even become suicidal.
If your teen has doubts about the suitability of content they want to share, they should think twice before posting and even consider checking with a friend or with you rather than risk some kind of fall-out.
What would you add to a Social Media 101 list for teens?