Modern teenagers have it all so easy. They can complain about their parents to so many more people using Twitter than I could when I had to call my friends on the phone (with a cord) or write them a letter (with paper and a pen). They can document every moment of their exciting lives, all the way down to what they ate for breakfast every day last week, using Facebook. And they can use Instagram to take and share every photo their hearts desire without the worry of how much it will cost or how long it will take to have the film developed. Ahhh… instant gratification! How wonderful is that? Many adults worry that all of this instant gratification and easy access to an audience is damaging our teens, but I’m not so sure.
Today’s youth are really poised to take advantage of so many opportunities that didn’t exist before social media. Thanks to social media, youth can create and share content that reflects their interests with a whole network of peers. Thanks to social media, youth can express themselves so easily and in so many ways – 140 characters of clever thoughts on Twitter, or capturing the world through their eyes in square photos on Instagram, or any number of other ways. Thanks to social media, youth have access to professionals and experts who can teach them about their careers or give advice about pursuing their dreams. I don’t at all worry that these tools are damaging our youth – instead, I believe they are better preparing them for connecting and interacting in a world we don’t quite understand yet.
That being said, I do believe that youth still need our help in navigating this new (to us) digital terrain. You wouldn’t take a group of teenagers and set them out in the wild jungles of the Amazon without a map and we shouldn’t send them out into the open world of social media without a guide. We can show youth how to harness the power of “instant gratification” and use it in a way that is positive, productive, and empowering by sharing just a few guidelines with them for how to safely and responsibly utilize these social tools.
Social Media Guidelines for Youth
1. Treat everything as public – There’s nothing private about the internet. Once you post something, it’s there forever. And anyone can find it. Even if you think you have deleted it, is there a chance that someone took a screenshot of it before you deleted? Where is that screenshot now?
2. Use strong passwords – A good strong password decreases the chances of having your account hacked and quickly turning into a spam bot (no one likes a spam bot)!
3. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t say in someone’s presence – A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want your grandparents, parents, teachers, coaches, or future employers to read it than you shouldn’t post it. The old standby – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all – also works here.
4. Proofread and Spell Check – Use good grammar, be sure to spell check, and proofread before you post. You want to avoid any unfortunate accidents (Hello, auto-correct! I am talking to you).
5. Don’t retweet or share something you haven’t read or visited first – If you find something interesting online or someone shares something that you think looks interesting, take the time to read through it or visit the link first. If it is worth reposting, it is worth your time to check it out. Remember, even your retweets and reposts reflect who you are and your personal brand.
6. Choose who you follow carefully – While you can’t always choose who follows YOU, you can most definitely choose who to follow. Look for people who have constructive things to contribute to the community. Follow people who bring you up, not bring you down. Seek out community members who have something to teach you or share common interests. And if someone you think would be good to follow turns out not to be so good, you can always unfollow them.
7. Maintain balance – Read through your posts from time to time to make sure that they represent a well-rounded YOU. Strive for a balance between personal posts, comments on other’s posts, and sharing content relevant to your life or interests.
8. Monitor your reputation (Monitor your brand) – At large corporations, and small businesses alike, it is someone’s job to monitor their brand. This person makes sure that requests are responded to, that questions are answered, and that the public has a generally good opinion of their brand and their company. You probably aren’t lucky enough to have a staff and a designated person to do this for you, so you have to do it for yourself. Keep an eye on what others are tagging you in, make sure it is appropriate content for your brand. Always remember your personal brand and your personal reputation and read your posts as a story of who you are and what you represent.
9. Create positive content – The best thing about being part of a social media community is sharing. Don’t be afraid to share your own works – photos, thoughts, formal writing, poetry, etc. As long as you are contributing positive content, the community will respond in friendly ways. Remember that people in your online community want to get to know you, so don’t be afraid to share.
— Mark (@thepointprince) September 24, 2013
10. Share your best self – Be original, be authentic, be true to yourself. The digital world is waiting to meet you and there are so many opportunities that will be offered to you if you are representing your best self in these online communities.
— FrozenLava (@FrozenLavaCases) September 28, 2013