Ask Children To “Think Ahead” Before Posting on Social Media

By: Jessica Fehrenbacher

Each generation has experiences that help set the tone for their generation. Our youngest generational group, Generation Z (those born between 1996-2010), live in the age of social media. They will never remember a time that it did not exist. There are many questions on how social media will affect the development of young people.

In the article “Social Media and Morality: Have You Considered the Impact?” Dr. Tim Elmore delves into this issue. According to a British poll, the “majority of parents believe that social media harms their children’s moral development.”

The survey, from the Jubilee Center for Character and Virtues at Birmingham University, showed that just over half of the people with children ages 11-17 “strongly agreed” that social media hinders or undermines moral development. Of their childrens’ habits and abilities on social media: 60% of parents claimed they had seen anger or hostility, 51% arrogance, 41% bad judgment, and 36% hatred.

While some positive character traits and moral virtues are promoted through social media, the surveyed parents were reluctant to agree that these sites have a good impact on their child’s character. The vast majority reported a huge absence of humility, self-control, forgiveness, honesty and fairness on social platforms.

Most adults agree young people need guidance with social media, and there are several ways to help them.

Ask to scroll through their posts with them. It may seem odd, but really sit with them and look posts uploaded both by and to them. Talk about what you see. Figure out the tone and content of posts and what it suggests about their character. Ask them what someone might conclude if they didn’t know them, but saw their posts.

Think ahead. Talk about how employers, coaches, instructors, or mentors might look at their sites. Talk about how students might lose their chance at job or another opportunity because of something that is posted. Help them to think about the future by following this rule: “I will only post what I would want my reputation to be ten years from now.” This will help them see the big picture and to explore the implications a post might have on them a decade from now.

Finally, ask them if they ever notice an attitude or change in themselves after reading or posting on social media. This open dialogue is important so that both parents and young people understand the effects of a negative attitude or impulsive reaction online.

Jessica Fehrenbacher is the Make a Difference Grant Program Manager at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana. Since 1987.