Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Howie Social Media Apps
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/Jason Howie Social Media Apps

There is no way around it, we have all had made social media mistakes. Either we have responded to an email out of frustration, accidentally sent something to the wrong person, or posted something we later regretted. No one is immune to acting impulsively, but doing so online can come with major consequences. Unfortunately, many people have had to learn extremely difficult lessons from posts that took only a matter of seconds to upload, but days, weeks, months, and yes, even years to repair. This blog explores some valuable social media lessons teens, and all of us for that matter, can learn from.

Top 5 Social Media Lessons:

Lesson 1 - Don't Trash Your Job Online

True story: I have a friend that works for a company that was conducting a new hire orientation, and during a day-long of in-service training, one of the newly employeed college graduates decided to share a tweet about the boring orientation - along with the company's name. Of course the IT (Information Technology) department picked up on the tweet and reported it to the supervisor. The new hire was called out of the training and dismissed from the job.

To follow suit, not long ago a young woman who had been looking for a job finally got hired by a child care center. She decided to update her "friends" on Facebook with the following post:

“I start my new job today... but I absolutely hate working at a day care. I just really hate being around a lot of kids.”

Well, the post got back to her employers and needless to say they didn't appreciate the post. Not only did she find herself jobless, but she also left with a tarnished online reputation.

Note to teens: Don't trash your job site or employer online; it may come back to haunt you.

Lesson 2 - Don't Post Any Pictures of Yourself Doing Something You Wouldn’t Want Others to See, Including the Police.

Officers often find underage offenders drinking, taking drugs, stealing, or engaging in some illegal activity online. It is not uncommon for the police to track down the youthful offender and slap them with a charge or worse yet arrest. So, don't post pictures of yourself engaging in activities that could land you in serious trouble. On another note, you may not be taking pictures of yourself, but unbeknownst to you, someone else may be snapping and posting photos. So, it is best to stay clear of risky law breaking situations.

Aside from legal ramifications comes a damaged online reputation. With more and more employers and college officials scouring the internet for potential candidates, the risk is too great to have a marred digital footprint.

Flickr Creative Commons/NICOLA ND0_4488
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/NICOLA ND0_4488

Lesson  3 - Don't Hurt People Online

Cyberbullying is a common online risk for teens. It is the deliberate and repeated harm inflicted through electronic mediums. Since cyberbullying doesn't involve face-to-face interactions, and the offender can remain anonymous. But make no mistake, cyberbullying comes with hefty consequences. Many states have adopted laws to address the ever-growing concern of cyberbullying. 

Below are some common forms of cyberbullying:

  • Using technology to threaten others.
  • Posting hurtful or embarrassing information about another person online.
  • Posting inappropriate pictures of another person on social media sites.
  • Creating a fake profile designed to cause deliberate harm to another person.
  • Starting rumors aimed at maliciously damaging another person's reputation.

Words of Wisdom - Be kind when you are online.

Lesson  4 - Don't Make Threats

While some argue that what is said online falls under the category of “free speech,” rest assured, making a threat online can be just as serious as making a threat face-to-face.  The First Amendment does not protect speech when "true threats" of harming another person come into play.  Many teens have made the mistake of posting a threat against their school online. As soon as authorities get wind of a threat they will investigate and if warranted, charge the youthful offender. The best thing to do is not to post any threats against a person or public place.  Many students have learned this lesson the hard way.

Make a wise decision and don't post fleeting thoughts or react on emotions.

Flickr Creative Commons/Esther Vargas
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/Esther Vargas

Lesson 5 - Don't Post Anything You Wouldn't Want Grandma to See...

Sexting is sending, receiving, or forwarding sexual photos or sexually suggestive messages through apps, texts or emails. Approximately 20 to 25 percent of American teens report engaging in sexting. Bottom line - Don't send nude, semi-nude, or provocative pictures to others. Your pictures can be leaked and you may later regret sending those photos. Once a photo is online, there's no way of knowing how many people have saved it, tagged it, shared it, etc. Unfortunately, the picture could re-surface years after later and cause a lot of embarrassment. Think about it... if you wouldn't want Grandma seeing the photo then you should not be sharing it with who knows how many people.

Flickr Creative Commons/Rosaura Ochoa
Source: Flickr Creative Commons/Rosaura Ochoa

In this day and age so much communication is done online and it's easy to forget that what's being displayed is not protected. When it comes to the Internet the whole wide world (www) is watching. Learning how to filter and express your thoughts and feelings online is paramount in protecting your privacy and reputation. Unfortunately, once something is out there it has the risk of going viral or getting into the wrong hands. Before uploading anything it's always good to ask yourself "Is this something that I would want hundreds or potentially thousands to see?" Better yet, ask yourself  "What would Grandma say?"

Basic rule of thumb when using the Internet ---- Use it, don’t abuse it.

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