I am of the original social media age. I opened my Facebook account when you had to have a college email address to register. I remember being a freshman at Alabama and using Facebook to look up people who sat near me in class. I actually “met” my college roommates on Facebook before meeting them in person. We were the first freshman class (at least at Alabama) to go into freshman year using social media in that way. Back then, there were no such things as iPhone, so you were limited to your laptop to waste time on Facebook or MySpace.
Fast forward to 2018, and things have changed drastically. As I work with students around our community, I see students who don’t know how to do life without social media. They are checking it at school, after school, and at all hours of the night. If there is drama at school, it doesn’t stay there. It ends up on their phones, and as such, it goes home with them to worry about and deal with 24 hours a day. An embarrassing fall or a break-up text from a boyfriend doesn’t just happen for a moment – it’s captured, shared, and lives on (over and over) until the next embarrassing moment takes place.
It’s easy to forget that while cell phones and constant technology access can be a great tool, many students feel the effects of it as a weapon. They are hurt by it on a daily basis. Between cell phone cameras, screenshots, and recording devices, it seems every moment is eternal. The most embarrassing moments are no longer forgotten by next week, they’re recorded, replayed, and even turned into memes to live on forever.
While many parents realize the importance of setting limits on screen time, many forget to have conversations about the consequences of social media and how much hurt it can cause. We must talk to our kids about kindness and how it relates to those tiny computers they constantly carry around in their pocket. Remind them what it feels like to have embarrassing moments captured and recorded. Explain to them the consequences of posting pictures, because they are never truly deleted if they’ve been posted – even for a few seconds. Help them understand that social media postings and pictures can have real life consequences when applying to colleges and jobs.