Parental Guidance: Getting Smart with Social Media

In this age of social media what one posts online holds more weight now than ever. A fact that 10 prospective Harvard students found out the hard way when their acceptances were revoked due to what they posted on social media. We’ve all heard this song before and like any other top 40 hit it won’t be the last time it’s played, but what can we take away and learn from these students?

While most people know how easy it is for employers to check social media, most don’t make the connection that this observation should incentivize them to change how they post. In the case of the 10 prospective students they were even given an official warning that the school’s College Admissions & Financial Aid Office monitored the Facebook page, and were reminded that the page was meant to “meet your classmates, share where you’re coming from, ask questions, keep in touch”. Harvard isn’t the only school cracking down on social media, recently a middle school student from Ohio was suspended for liking a picture of a gun on Instagram as well as 13 dentistry students that were recently suspended from Dalhousie University for posting degrading comments.

How can your child avoid this fate? Here are a few tips to guarantee a Harvard acceptance letter:

1. Ask For Their Social Media Handles

Should your child refuse, take this as a red flag. This probably means that there is something inappropriate your child doesn’t want you to see, but just because they forbid you from seeing it doesn’t mean an employer or recruiter can’t easily find it.

2. Convince Them to Change Their Viewing Settings to Private Mode

This will restrict posts to a more selective viewing audience that can include only their friends, only selective friends and on sites like Twitter and Instagram only they can see their posts.

3. Be Conscious of Their Friends

Advise your child to only accept friend requests from people they truly consider their friend. For younger children a “friend” can save an inappropriate post to use against your child, which can result in a suspension. Older children should be wary of an employer on a fake account trying to gain access to private posts.

4. Beware the Tag!

Just because your child chooses to skip on posting an inappropriate tweet doesn’t mean their best friend has the same idea. If a friend makes an inappropriate post and tags your child in it, the post will be on your child’s profile with their name attached to it. Again, this can be adjusted similarly to private mode. Advise your child to adjust tagging so nobody has the ability to tag them in posts or at the very least, only their friends can tag them in posts.

Social media is one big “your actions have consequences” life lesson that you pray your child never has to experience. Explain to your child that social media isn’t just a place to rant about their favorite show or sports team; it’s a reflection of who they are. The 10 Harvard students never imagined that their posts would have their admissions revoked, but their behavior brought into question their honesty, maturity and moral character. Educate your children before they fall victim to the same, easily avoidable fate.

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