Talk with your kids about social media and its power
We all hear about Facebook being in trouble and the public debate of whether it is good or bad. As with all new inventions it can be used for either. Understanding the tool is important and it is a good idea to teach our kids how to use social media responsibly. Of equal importance is it to alert them to be aware of the dangers that are not immediately apparent. Facebook is wonderful to share photos about events, get togethers, with friends and family. It is a fantastic way to allow grandma to be part of your children’s lives without much effort or travel. Facebook’s messenger is a wonderful way to chat with our family and friends and even to speak with them, often without extra charge, depending on your WIFI and phone plan.
Social media has a wide, very wide reach! Visualizing this fact with your children is very important. It is recommended to proof read their privacy settings and to set them up to allow only qualified pre-vetted friends and family to see their posts. Here is an example why this is important:
In 2015 a teacher from the county of Essex in the United Kingdom did an experiment with his 5 and 6 grade students. They posted a request for people to pass on the post to see how many forwards they could achieve. We again checked in January 2019 and found that that simple post had achieved over 926,000 shares for the posts. There are only 1.5 Million people living in the entire county of Essex. But the teacher reached well over 900,000 reposts and that probably means that well over 20 million people saw the post. If we conservatively assume that the average number of people who see the post after it was reposted hovered around 20x. Facebook typically shows the post to only 8% of someone’s friends. 20,000,000 people may have seen this post that only garnered 21 comments on the teacher's site.
You want your kids to realize the magnitude of being “public” with their posts. And, you want to impress upon them that there is no such thing as a "private post". Even if they think the post is private, someone can make a copy via a screen shot and then share the post without their permission. The facebook privacy agreement allows this. Also teach your kids to use posts as a power for good. If they influence over 20,000,000 people what do they want their legacy and influence to be? Get your children to realize that they are tremendously powerful, when their words and ideas go viral. If they use posts in a mean-spirited way, they can cause a lot of pain to their target and influence a tremendous amount of people to act in similarly mean-spirited ways to people your child doesn't even know. It doesn't matter if your child intends to cause this harm or not. It will happen without them even realizing it. If you child posts something mean spirited to a friend they are upset with, potentially 20 Million people could see that post. Social media posts are never private. Never!
Facebook finally has acknowledged that its influence needs to be used a bit more consciously. Not everyone agrees that their effort to raise their inner office awareness is adequate, but it is a start. The same is true for each of us. Parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online. If your child doesn’t want you as a friend, that probably means that they are using the social media tool in a way that they are embarrassed for you to see. Make them aware that their future college admissions officer and their future employer will potentially see what they have posted. Once something is online it is very difficult to erase its history.