Article: Social Media and Cell Phones

The use of social media and cell phones can have a profound impact on our teens’ social lives and mental health. Parents often aren’t privy to the depths of their teens’ social media and texting activity, and teens often aren’t aware that their digital actions can affect them offline as well. This is a comparatively new phenomenon in our society, and parents are still trying to figure out the best way to teach their kids how to be aware that anything they do digitally could be open to the world to see. Any mistake teens make online can be exposed at any time (even if it’s in a private text!). And both their school and the legal system can hold them accountable for those mistakes.

In this chapter, we’ll talk about the social, academic, and legal ramifications of digital world mishaps, and I’ll offer advice that you can give your kids to help keep them out of trouble.

Social Ramifications

I am a big believer in allowing children to make mistakes so that they learn from them. The problem is that we now live in a society with the ability to memorialize every little mistake anyone makes, and punishment for those mistakes can rear its ugly head at any time. A thoughtless comment, a retweeted meme, an offensive picture, an angry exclamation—all now can be permanently saved and distributed on the world wide web. Again, this doesn’t apply only to public posts on social media. This goes for texting and direct messaging as well.

Picture this:

You’re a girl in sixth grade and you text your best friend everything, including your thoughts on all the people you go to school with (some of which aren’t so nice because, hey, you’re 12). Three years later, in ninth grade, your former best friend is now best friends with one of the girls you said horrible things about, and she shows her the texts. This girl publicly confronts you in the cafeteria about your documented sixth-grade insults, and now you have to deal not only with her but with half the ninth-grade class that overheard your loud argument in the lunchroom and now sees you as an outcast.

It’s not fair, but it’s the reality we live in.

Social Media and Cell Phones

Keeping Our Kids Safe and Out of Trouble

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