Phones are essentially two-way communication devices, capable only of sending and collecting information. But the recent episode of kids acting badly and posting their images on the Twitter account @LI PartyStories reveals the underlying power of the phone and, subsequently, the poor judgment of some teens.
The account was used by high school students on New York’s Long Island to post photos of underage drinking, nudity and sexual misconduct. It attracted more than 25,000 followers before being shut down by Twitter. The story reminds us of how ignorant some are about the power of social media.
What were these teens thinking — or were they? And what were the site owners and the 25,000 individuals who followed the account thinking? Images posted through social media can reach an unpredictably large audience quickly and remain available indefinitely. The behavior depicted in these images cannot be something of which these kids are proud. Yet they allowed photos to be captured and posted for thousands to see. It’s mind-boggling.
What thought processes were at work when these teens engaged in such acts, collected the images, then posted them for the world to see? The answer is: None.
We all have a personal PR program. It’s at work as soon as we walk out our door. People judge us by our appearance and our actions. Right or wrong, what we do can impact us for a long time. Colleges reviewing applicants and employers considering potential employees will be influenced by a social profile.
Our teens need to understand that they will be judged by their actions and how and where they are displayed as well as their knowledge and education. Our technology today enables us to freeze-frame a moment in time and instantly disseminate it worldwide.
You can help your teen understand the relationship between actions and the content of character. You can start by treating the phone as the complex tool it is. The phone, which your teen rarely lets out of sight, is a mega-machine that unveils an amazing and beautiful world. It can also be a voyeur that transforms private behavior into a public spectacle.
Discussing the phone with your child has become as important as those conversations about sexual activity, alcohol use and drug experimentation. It is imperative that you talk with your son or daughter about living in an increasingly shared world where moments are digitally captured and uploaded.
Your child needs to fully comprehend the repercussions of posting pictures on social media. Even if kids have a short list of true and trusted friends, any of those friends can repost an image to a broader audience. Once an image is floated out to cyberspace, it becomes part of one’s history — and one’s future.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.