Okay, today I'm going to sound like your mom. Sorry in advance. I have had several clients over the years but especially recently that have had issues with their parents about things they've posted on social media. Typically it goes something like this...
Kid: Post about school or someone you don't like or something you're doing or want to do.
Parent: Don't use foul language.
Kid: Edits post to exclude foul language.
Parent: Better, but don't talk about this thing...
Kid: ignores parent or (at best case) deletes post.
So, now here's where I'm going to sound like your mom, kids. I just read this statistic:
79% of job recruiters will look at your online presence, and 70% have rejected candidates based on what they saw! Yikes!
If you're between the ages of 14 and 17, you're probably using social media on a daily basis--probably the majority of your day when you're not in school. If you're like most 14 to 17 year olds, you're also still in that lovely area of "childhood" where you think nothing bad will happen to you (this stems from a very normal thing called "adolescent egocentrism"). So anyway, what happens is that you don't think any harm can come from posting what ever you happen to be thinking about. You might think your friends will read it or see it and laugh or think you're cool. And they might. But beware of other people that may also be seeing your posts (and I'm not talking about your parents!)
In the next few years, you adolescents will begin to seriously look for jobs and guess what? Your potential employers will be using whatever resources they have available to them (the internet) to see what kind of a person you are. They will do a google search on you and they will find you. I'm not trying to scare you, I'm just telling you the reality--I mean, what is the first thing you do when you hear about a new singer or a new movie coming out? You google it! Although we are old, we use google, too! I urge you to think about social media as a giant, permanent billboard that the world can see. That might sound exciting to you today but recognize that when you're 25 and trying to get started in your career, the adolescent posts you thought were so funny and clever when you were 15 might come back to haunt you.
I know what you're probably thinking: So I could post stuff and then just go back and delete it.
Yes, you could. However, in the meantime, you don't know who has captured your post. If you get into an argument online, that other person could be taking screenshots of the exchange. If you have someone that wants to "get you in trouble" they may be screenshotting and just storing it away for future use... you just never know. That's the trouble. If you make a mistake and post something and your parent or someone else tells you its offensive or maybe you shouldn't post that, please remove it. As soon as possible. It reduces the chances that it will be available to someone down the line but doesn't eliminate the possiblility.
So, the best choice is to actually strengthen your "filter" muscle--before you publish a post, read it as though you were your own parent. Would they say its inappropriate? Read it as though you were a potential employer. Would they say it makes you sound like a poor choice for an employee? Read it as though you were the person that hates you the most. Would they say "yay! I just got some juicy stuff to hold over them!" If the answer to any of these is "yes" by all means, RECONSIDER your post! Tone it down or just don't post it at all. I know how hard this is because you're getting reinforcement from your friends--they "like" your posts, they comment about how funny you are, how lucky you are, how brave and how "right" you are... so you have to get into the habit of looking through somone else's eyes who might not feel the same way as you and your friends do.
This is a link to the entire infographic (and a whole bunch of others that are really quite good for the 16-25 year old crowd.) The "should I post this?" one is #9 on the list. It is also available through my Pinterest account under the board "Parenting". (Click the icon below to go to my Pinterest account).
I'm sure the majority of my readers are the parents, not the teens I'm talking to here, so I urge you, parents, to talk to your teens about this and show them this statistic and print out the infographic for them. Go right now onto Google and type in your kids' name. You might be surprised at what an online presence they already have. Talk to your kids about this important issue and have it be a conversation starter about internet safety in general (have you heard about "sextortion"? Have your kids?) It may be a very difficult conversation to have but it could save them a lot of heartache down the road. They might thank you when they're 25 but don't hold your breath.