When, If, or What to Post–Parents and Teens Grapple with Rules for the Digital Age

Lots of reasons exist for social media rules. One is truth, another courtesy, another fairness and perhaps the most important, it could get you or someone else in trouble or worse, cause irreversible consequences, especially in young people trying to balance all sorts of big and small issues in their ever-changing lives and how they see themselves.

Cut to the president-elect of the United States who can’t resist tweeting about anything and everything and you see the issue.

With teens, it can be particularly devastating when issues of self-image are put at risk.  Take, for example, seeing a live-stream party when you were not invited or someone you wanted to see that night turned you down for a silly reason and then you see them lip-locked with your best friend on a post from someone you hate.  And those issues don’t even touch on what’s too sexy to post or too intimate to share about yourself or someone else.

What’s a teen to do? (what’s a president-elect to do?)

The issue ties in with the challenges of social media, when a social platform or platforms speak to the world and often times to strangers that indelibly disclose an image, event, action, or hurtful words that can destroy or at least cause emotional injury to someone else.

This is particularly an issue for teens, whose brain development is particularly vulnerable to swings in hormones where images can cause behavior that can come back to haunt.

Image result for social media rules, created by kids

The way we present ourselves and others is just one facet hugely enlarged by the reach and scope of social media.  It is an issue we all face, one even the current president spoke about in his farewell address when he said: “For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”

And when it comes to uncivil discourse, as social media is prone to allow and even foster because it’s so easy to do and its repercussions delayed or unseen, the outgoing president offered this: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.”

Civility and rules are important in all facets of life, no less so for social media.

Here’s the link to Devorah Heitner’s insightful story about the importance of social media rules by and for kids: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/well/family/the-unspoken-rules-kids-create-for-instagram.html.


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