Have you ever had that dream where you are making an entrance into an important event or meeting, only to trip and fall? Or maybe your dream is about making an important speech in front of a large crowd, only to realize you aren’t wearing pants?
It can be scary putting yourself out there in a public forum.
Now image that you are a teenager trying to figure out how to present yourself to the world. You feel as though you’re too old to be a child any longer, yet you don’t have enough experience to handle the adult world on your own. Multiply all of that pressure and feel it reflect back on to you, because of social media.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. You only knew someone “liked” you at Valentine’s Day when they gave you an extra-special card, not when they clicked a “like” button or keyed in a heart emoji.
Last summer, I was having dinner with a family friend and his daughters, and we started to talk about teenagers and social media. We got into a deep conversation about the peer pressure associated with social media, and the addiction some teens have to receiving positive feedback on their posts. Social media can be such an adult world for individuals we still think of as children.
What guidebook do we give them when they go on social media – how do we teach them right from wrong? How do we help them use social media as a positive tool rather than potentially going down a nasty road? What, when, how, and why to post certain things – and why to completely avoid others – is a crucial part of modern day etiquette.
These are skills that teenagers need to learn. Because unlike just dreaming about being publicly embarrassed, what happens in “Social Media Land” lives forever, and can be shared again and again and again, until it becomes a true nightmare.
The good news is, these are skills that can be taught. I love seeing teens realize the impact that words can have on social media, and applying those lessons to their interactions as they navigate through the transition to becoming successful adults. I feel so honoured to be a part of that process.