My guess is the phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” will die out with my generation. Gone are the days of secrets. Almost everything we say or do can be seen by the public in a split second thanks to social media. One of the biggest challenges in parenting and education today is teaching our children how to be good digital citizens.
Digital citizenship. These two words were non-existent a decade ago but are now buzz words in education and technology circles. Schools and parents have long tried to raise students to be good citizens who meaningfully contribute to society, but today technology demands we teach students how to be responsible online. Digital citizenship is multi-faceted, but the area that most affects the next generation is the use or misuse of social media.
In a New York Times article titled “They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets,” Singer discusses how more and more college admissions counselors are checking out Instagram and Twitter when considering college candidates. Students who post negative comments about teachers (shame on them) or inappropriate pictures are often passed over because colleges want to have positive student body. According to Forbes magazine approximately one-third of employers claim that something posted on social media has kept them from hiring a candidate. Employers state that provocative or inappropriate pictures along with poor communication skills (c I told u 2) have cost many candidates a job. What is posted stays with students and can affect their future.
So how do we teach digital citizenship?
Monkey see; monkey do. Adults must model appropriate social media behavior. We cannot expect our kids to post appropriately if we are not. If adults are posting mid-life crisis vacation pictures and slandering people and organizations on social media, kids will follow their example. Take the high road and use social media to benefit others.
Talk with your kids about what is and what is not appropriate to post.
Selfie with Bon Jovi in the background on Instagram
“The Barb is the best #alliteration” tweeted
Video of English teacher yelling at class posted on Vine (totally hypothetical)
Imitating Miley Cirus on any form of social media
Monitor, monitor, monitor.
Parents must be aware of how their children are using social media and have an ongoing discussion with them. The younger the child, the more involved a parent should be. In our home I knew my kids’ passwords and not only saw what they posted but had access to their accounts and checked on them frequently. Some would consider this an invasion of privacy, but just as I would not let me kids go off with someone I don’t know, I am not turning them loose in the cyber world without having full access to their accounts. If a child is posting inappropriately, ground him or her from social media or deactivate his or her account until the child is able to use social media responsibly. Using social media is a privilege, not a right.
Follow social media guidelines.
Most social media accounts including Instagram and Snapchat have a minimum age limit of 13. Do not allow your child to have an account if he or she is underage. I realize your child is far more mature than most eight or nine year olds, but you must teach your child to follow social media guidelines. Period. If you’re wondering why Facebook is not on the list, only old people use Facebook. As my young friend Caleb Stanley says, “I only have a Facebook account to keep up with my old friends.”
I love social media because it allows me to keep up with friends and connect professionally with others. Plus, it’s just fun sometimes. However, we must be aware of the harmful effects along with the good and teach our children accordingly.
What is one step you can take this week to help your child be a more responsible digital citizen?