Email is so yesterday.
73% of teens have an active social media profile on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and choose these as a preferred method of communication between friends and family. Users post pictures of friends, share opinions or thoughts about something that happened at school and comment on information other users post on their pages- it is basically a line of constant communication. Social media is a great way for you to keep in touch with everyone, keep up on the latest news and your favorite TV shows and stars or even contribute to a cause that is important to you. But, you know all of this already, right? One astounding statistic is the number of teenagers that fail to think about the consequences of their online interactions, both positive and negative and who else might be able to access their online communications.
Let’s start with the positive.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family, hear the latest news about what is happening at your school and in your town and to follow favorite television shows, movies, brands and more. These sites become a running “stream” of your daily life and project who you are (or who you portray yourself to be) to anyone that you interact with. As a soon-to-be college student you can also now use these sites to learn more about the colleges you are looking to attend. Over the past couple of years, colleges have started creating sites for prospective students to learn about their campus, including events, available programs and so much more. They have even included special live chat features such has as having current students, admissions and financial aid officers answer questions students and parents might have. This is a great way for a college to interact with a student that might be interested in attending and does not have the chance to visit campus. This also gives students a chance to learn things about a college that might not be presented on a tour or in a personal interview and show their interest in a specific campus.
So, what’s wrong with that?
Though social media can open up a number of avenues and lines of communication for you, teenagers also need to remember the consequences of the information and photos they are sharing. Personal safety aside, it is important to remember that even though you have used security settings it does not mean that things you post including thoughts, opinions and pictures are truly restricted to outside viewers. Take a step back and look at the comments that appear on your pages and the images that are included in photos. What impression would they make upon someone who does not know you? Would a prospective college or employer get the wrong idea about who you are?
College admissions officers are trying to get a true sense of what each student really is like, beyond the application and essay that were submitted and what better place to find more information than a site like Facebook. In a recent survey, it was recorded that 4 out of 5 admissions offices at U.S. colleges are using Facebook to research prospective students and 54% of people under 25 have regretted something they posted online.
Avoid the Pitfalls.
We all know how fun and important these sites are for staying connected, but as their popularity grows so does the attention that people are giving them. Take a moment to take a step back: has a friend posted a “funny” photo of you doing something that might be taken the wrong way if others took a look? Did you share an opinion that could be offensive if someone doesn’t know the situation that prompted you to comment? These are all things that every teenager needs to consider when using social media to communicate; every thought, opinion, post, photo, blog builds an image of what others will see if they know nothing more about you then what you put online. Are you happy with that image?
Word to the wise.
Here are some tips to make sure you get the best out of what social media has to offer:
- Use your profiles to create a positive image of yourself; share interests, passions, talents, and skills to create an “online resume”
- Interact with groups that have similar interests (beware of groups that are promoting negative thoughts, images and opinions you may not want to be associated with)
- Don’t hit “Like” until you have checked out the actual page- every day people will hit Like to a funny post or comment without realizing that groups with negative messages solicit users using this tactic
- Network with professional groups of interest and share your talents, skills and aspirations with them
- Join a college’s Facebook page- take the opportunity to interact with current students, find out about events on campus, join a chat with an admissions officer
- Remember when you are speaking to a professional or even someone from an older generation, LOL and TTY are not proper terms, opt for formal communication, using terms such as Dear, Sir, Sincerely…