When I graduated college, my hope was to find a job in a congressional office on Capitol Hill. After months of pounding the pavement, I was still jobless. In the process, I got connected with a small business owner looking for a research analyst. Although I had my sights set on the Hill, he convinced me to come work for him part time. He needed help with some government contracts researching international boundary coordinates for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. The information would serve the Department of Defense and potential military operations. The countries I researched and reported on were in the Middle East. The work sounds more interesting than the reality of it, especially when you are doing contract work for the CIA. Most of my days were spent in the reading rooms of the Library of Congress pouring over treaties and maps. However, there was a satisfaction knowing that I was doing something that could help our military in the future. I felt a responsibility to make sure that the Department of Defense had the best information and those boundaries were firmly correct.
Teenagers are also in need of the right information and firm boundaries should be established. They will consistently press the boundaries and take risks, some with serious consequences. The Internet, particularly social media, is another outlet for possible downfall. When it comes to technology and teens normally the dangerous things that come to mind are sexting, online predators, and cyberbullying. All are incredibly damaging, more common than people think, and should be talked about. However, there are subtle, everyday dangers of social media that are either unknown, being ignored, or minimized. We need to educate teens and set the appropriate boundaries for them to stay safe. Here are everyday dangerous things kids are doing on social media.
1. Partying Pictures
It’s one thing to party, there is plenty of potential danger with that alone. It is quite another thing to post all of your activities (particularly illegal) for friends, family, enemies, and future employers to see. Teenagers aren’t thinking about anything, but the attention they receive today. There are three questions for them to answer before posting something.
Would you be comfortable with a future boss or the Principal of your school seeing it?
Are you okay with your grandmother seeing this?
Can someone that doesn’t like you use it against you?
It’s tough to not compare our lives with one another when everything is posted online. For teens, social media quickly becomes a show, a place for them to make their life look more exciting than others. [Tweet This] It’s about building an image. The problem is that it nurtures embellishment, a subtle but powerful form of lying. When we lie our true sense of identity and belonging are weakened. Those are two of the most important things teenagers are developing. Focusing on creating fantasy, instead of embracing their true self, stunts their maturity.
3. Oversexualized Clothing
Teenagers, especially girls, find out quickly that their newly discovered sexuality can be used for attention, even manipulation. Social media gives them a wider audience for both. It feels empowering and they do not have the maturity to self- regulate. All of the consequences of the first two points apply here.
4. Viral Video Attempts
Many want to be the next Internet sensation. Unfortunately, in order to do that, you have to do something extreme. Too often that results in them doing things that are physically dangerous or humiliating. Not only can they sustain serious injury or death doing them, but they are not prepared for the consequences when these videos are uploaded. That brings me to my final point.
5. Humiliating or Publicly Shaming Others
Sadly, this is not just a teen problem, it’s an all of us problem. I remember reading the book 1984 and always thinking that Big Brother would be government. It’s actually all of us with our camera phones and hunger for attention. Every time someone does something embarrassing or lacking in integrity, someone records it and posts it without a thought. Now I believe in appropriate accountability; but the second these videos upload, we descend like piranhas with blood in the water. A simple mistake or lapse in moral judgment quickly becomes a ruined life. There is blood on our hands when we post a video, share it, or join a chorus of hateful comments contributing to a persons destruction. Teens are following our lead and they won’t stop until we do. They don’t know any better. We should.