Preparing teens for adulthood includes helping them navigate the ins and outs of social media. Sometimes teens don’t think before they act. But, this makes sense because the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid-20s. This part of the brain is responsible for “executive functions;” which includes the ability to organize thoughts, solve problems, foresee possible consequences and delay gratification. That’s why many times adolescents do things that simply don’t make sense to us. So, when it comes to social media they need to be educated.
Teens need our input regarding what is OK for them to post and what isn’t. Negative posts can haunt them forever. And, in spite of the fact that teens seem to think that their Facebook profile is private; this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just recently, Facebook admitted that a glitch in their system exposed personal information of nearly 6 million people.
Very little of what we do today is truly private. Even posting pictures can be a threat to safety. Perpetrators can tell when and where a picture originated, which gives them the opportunity to show up where they shouldn’t. College officials review social networking sites to help them determine whom they will offer enrollment packages. When it comes to finding a job, social media posts can keep them from getting hired. It’s estimated that about 75 percent of company recruiters use social networks to review candidates’ backgrounds before they consider hiring them.
Surprisingly, even if posts and pictures are deleted, there are companies who save seven years worth of Facebook posts so they can market the information to potential employers. But, it doesn’t take years of Facebook postings to lose a job; many people have been fired after posting inappropriate pictures or events before they thought about the consequences of doing it. Some examples include: a 911 operator who posted racist comments on her Facebook page, several Virgin Atlantic employees who posted derogatory statements about passengers and a high school teacher who posted pictures of her holding wine and beer.
Posting inappropriate messages can negatively affect a teen’s future. Once they post something, there is no way to get it back. And if teens are wondering whether they should or shouldn’t post something, then maybe they should consider declining to take part in the activity in the first place.
Of course, arming them with information isn’t the only thing you should do. As difficult as it may be to set limits and boundaries for your teens, you must monitor their activity. They may fight you, but it’s up to you to protect their future. After-all, there is nothing that screams “Don’t hire me!” like a picture of an under-aged teen who is drunk or scantily clad.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Kristina Welker is a doctor of psychology and a licensed professional counselor and life coach. She is a member of the Ahwatukee Behavioral Health Network and The American Association of Christian Counselors. Reach her at (480) 893-6767 or firstname.lastname@example.org.