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Taming the Social Media Beast

We are inundated daily with warnings about social media use and misuse by our teens. How are we supposed to keep up?

We need to stay current on what's happening, what to look out for, and how to mitigate potential risks.

"Make mistakes, just not the big ones"

I don't mind when teens make mistakes. In fact, I promote it. Mistakes can drive personal growth. However, I also warn teens to avoid the big mistakes - mistakes that are life-altering. Avoid these at all costs:

  1. Drug use
  2. Drunk Driving
  3. Unwanted pregnancy
  4. Social Media misuse

I recently added #4 to the list - and for good reason. Social media problems are ruining peoples' lives everywhere. Unfortunately, the use of social media has become so widespread, that the odds of someone doing something disastrous are increasing by the minute.

What you should know

  • Once posted, consider the content of the post to be permanently embedded in the digital landscape - forever
  • Don't believe any promises that your post will disappear in x seconds/minutes/days (it is findable in minutes)
  • Colleges will "Google" your child's name during the application process and can quickly "reject" them if they detect lack of social media judgment
  • Sexually explicit posts can lead to arrests, convictions, and designation as a "sexual predator"
  • "Don't let a 140-character tweet cost you a $140,000 scholarship" - quote from Brandon Chambers (Division I Assistant Basketball Coach) who famously rescinded a full-ride athletic scholarship from a prospective player because of social media misuse
  • Context matters: even a seemingly innocent photo or image may be perceived as inappropriate without proper context (don't take the chance)
  • 97% of teens claim that they can't "function" without their smartphone
  • SnapChat now has the largest share of 13-17-year-olds
  • Today's teens are considered "digital natives" which means they have grown up with phones as their primary communication tool. Their lives play out minute-by-minute on their phones - with little time for reflection or consideration as to what may/may not be appropriate for public consumption.
  • Teens maintain social media "identities" and work diligently to manage, primp, prune, tweak, and optimize their digital brand.
  • Posted images can be geolocated. This brings up important safety issues for teens. If your son or daughter posts a photo of something happening on their way home from school, a bad actor can track where the photo was taken from and find your son or daughter in no time.

What constitutes a bad post?

  • oversharing
  • bullying overtones
  • anything remotely provocative
  • anything illicit (drugs, alcohol, sexual)
  • slang, curse words, overly aggressive photos

What you can do about it

The best way to engage with your teens about this topic is by asking them what social channels they use and why. Ask them what they like and don't like about their favorite apps. Get them talking. Ask them to teach you something about an app. Ask them to help you create your own account.

When you solicit your child's help, their defenses go down. This works far better than lecturing them on something you know nothing about. Teens will appreciate that you are trying to stay relevant and will take pride in knowing more than you do. Use this to your advantage.

Here are some tactics to employ once you have opened the lines of communication:

  • Talk to your child about avoiding the "big mistakes"
  • Ask them if they've heard of any social media mistakes gone bad
  • Give them examples of what not to post (see examples above)
  • Have them show you their privacy settings
  • Confirm Privacy Settings are not toggled to "Public"
  • Turn off photo-tagging function
  • Tattoo the phrase "Pause Before You Post" on their thumbs
  • Delete any old accounts they no longer use (e.g. mySpace)
  • Encourage child to participate in activities without their phone for short periods of time to slowly decrease reliance on the device to "function"
  • Consider using the Social U to find your child's Social GPA (this is a website that examines your child's social media profile and reports how "good" or "bad" it will appear to colleges)

LinkedIn to the rescue

One of the most important projects assigned to PrepWellers is to create a personal LinkedIn profile [see 60-second sample] that serves as their primary online resume [blog post].

In addition to the many organizational benefits, a LinkedIn profile should serve as your son or daughter's single "public-facing" social media channel.

In other words, when a college admissions officer (or future employer) "Googles" your child's name, the very first thing that should show up in the search results is their updated, professional, and simple LinkedIn profile - that's it! No Facebook photos, Instagram posts, or SnapChat stories. This will impress any college admissions officer.

In order to do this, your child must turn OFF the "Public" access to their social media activity as soon as possible. Over time, any currently "Public" content will lose relevance and status with the search engines and eventually fade away.

In fact, this strategy is even better than completely shutting down all social media activity. These days, colleges expect prospective students to have some level of "social media skills/judgment", so a college counselor might raise an eyebrow if the prospective student has absolutely zero social media presence. Having an active LinkedIn profile will put an admissions officer's mind at ease. Ideally, your son and daughter will keep their LinkedIn profile updated, use it to build a network, join groups, comment, and be an active member (all for free).

We address all of these issues inside PrepWell Academy and walk our students through the process of creating and filling out their LinkedIn profile. If you want your son or daughter to have access to this type of mentorship and practical skill-building, enroll in PrepWell Academy today.

Prep On,

Author: PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank, etc.

Inside PrepWell Academy, Black teaches students everything they need to know about the college admissions process in a series of expertly-timed, 3-5-minute, weekly training videos starting in 9th grade and continuing through 12th grade [Note: this program can only be joined in 9th or 10th grade]. My specialties include military service academies, ROTC scholarships, Ivy League, and student-athletes.

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