Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Pheed—-the list of social networking options is seemingly endless. We use them practically 24/7, sometimes with the mistaken notion that they are forms of private communication rather than public fora. The illusion that our children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren often cling to, i.e., that only friends and acquaintances want or need to follow them online, is just that. Indeed, once they enter high school, they are ever more likely to be scrutinized by outside parties that have a vested interest in their online activity. College admission offices, scholarship committees, internship sponsors, and employers are increasingly likely to peruse a candidate’s online presence as part of their decision-making processes.
I strongly recommend children to make an honest assessment of their online activity by considering the following: What do pictures and posts on Facebook reveal about them? Do they routinely tweet four-letter-words? Are there online pictures or YouTube videos accessible by the general public that show them in embarrassing attire or potentially compromising situations? Have they written disparaging comments about teachers, coaches, employers, or other students? If there is any online content that might sabotage their academic or employment aspirations, now is the time for them to clean up their act. Competition for scholarships, college admission, internships, summer programs, and jobs is fierce; why reduce or even eliminate the chance for consideration by posting material that calls into question their judgment, character, and taste.
A good rule of thumb when evaluating use of social media is for children to ask themselves if they would want a grandparent to access their social media accounts to read and view everything about them. If they can truthfully answer “yes”, hooray! If the thought of grandma (or grandpa) viewing their Facebook page or other social media makes them want to run and hide, it’s time for some ruthless purging and a new approach to maintaining their online presence.