contributed by guest blogger, Lexie Maitland
I must say, being a teenager in today’s society is rather difficult. Back when my parents were my age they didn’t have things like Twitter and Instagram to possibly ruin their reputations. They didn’t have to worry about social media in general, so they were only known for how they portrayed themselves face to face. Being pretty familiar with the most popular social media sites, I realize there are risks associated with them. Furthermore, I can’t be the only teen that is starting to think this way. So, here they are. This is what I think about when I post, and this is what I think about when I reflect on the content in each of my social media accounts.
1.) What will colleges think about me? As I have mentioned in earlier blog posts, colleges LOVE to look at future applicant’s social media accounts. It helps them to get a good idea about the kind of person you are and the student you will potentially be. Since I’m starting to look at potential colleges now, I constantly worry about them looking at my social media profile. I have nothing negative or “bad” out there, but will they see me as I want them to see me? Although I always try and maintain positive digital citizenship, it is hard to imagine that colleges will see me as “me” with only a screen to reflect who I am.
2.) What if my account gets hacked into? Another strong concern/ worry of mine is this: what if someone hacks onto my account and posts a bunch of inappropriate content? I’ve seen it happen before and it really truly concerns me. What am I going to do if my positive digital content gets flushed away by a hacker? This concern goes back to colleges as well because how are they possibly going to know that the reason I have inappropriate content on my page is because of a crazy hacker? I learned something recently that is helpful here. I took a workshop taught by former Special Agent, Heather Ryan. In addition to the obvious tip of not giving anyone (even your best friend) your passwords, she suggested to use strong passwords generated through a password manager, and never truthfully answer any of the password reset questions. Smart advice that I’m taking seriously. I can’t risk my reputation with an easily accessible account.
3.) Are my classmates going to judge me for the way I act on social media? I know this shouldn’t be a huge concern of mine and for the most part it isn’t, but every once in a while it slips into the back of my mind. Let’s be real, almost all teenagers are going to have this thought present in their mind at some point in time. Since the majority of teens like to post inappropriate content online, it’s hard not to wonder if the majority is going to judge you for posting positive and uplifting posts.
4.) What if that one really cute guy is actually a 50 something year old man? Sadly, this concern happens more frequently than you think. Not only are teenagers being tricked by this kind of dangerous behavior, but some of them are actually falling for it. I know that this is a huge concern of mine. Even though I know never to trust anyone online, it’s still alarming knowing that there are people out there that lie about their true identities.
5.) What if someone tracks my location through my social media accounts? If you haven’t already been able to tell, I am a rather worrisome teenager. The truth is all teenagers should be aware of these concerns, and this one is no exception. Although there are ways to make your social media accounts more private and there are ways to turn off your location settings, there are still creepers out there who can find you if they are determined to do so. That’s why it is extremely important to NEVER share your location online. It’s tempting to ‘check in’ and let your friends know where you are, but it’s not just your friends you are alerting to your whereabouts.
I would tell any parent reading this that it’s important to understand your child’s concerns about social media and talk through them together. Although I do tend to be a little over the top when it comes to what I worry about online, I think it’s better to be concerned than complacent. The risks are real. I’m doing everything I know how to do so that I’m not another statistic . Most importantly, I’m also doing everything I know how to do in order to establish an online reputation that differentiates me as a positive person with aspirations, goals, well-rounded interests, and values.