On Thursday November 3rd cyberbullying became a campaign headline. Melania Trump acknowledged the good and bad sides of social media culture in her Pennsylvania speech, along with the intention to address youth cyberbullying as a national conversation. As the wife of a man who is known for his Twitter outbursts, the irony of this point was pounced upon over the Internet and Melania herself quickly became a subject for the nation’s cyberbullies.
As sarcasm exploded through the #MelaniaTrump hashtag, I wondered about social media etiquette for all ages, adults included. As a Bay Area resident who lives within miles of city with a major high school suicide problem, I believe that teen anxiety and depression may be due in part to information overload accessible through social media.
Social media is a powerful tool that can celebrate and sting at the same time. For kids, it’s especially powerful because the world is watching, which is much different when just the playground was watching. Increased audiences bring increased pressures and vulnerabilities. Children need safe space to grow their confidence and self-esteem, but when social media metrics assess every action, this safe space is at risk of disintegrating.
If we get to a point when youth is more concerned about building their audience than about building their character, we have a problem.
If we get to a point when adults are poor role models for children because they are displaying disrespectful behavior online, we have another problem.
We’ll have fewer problems if people of all ages have the tools, inclination and capacity to demonstrate respectful and productive social etiquette online. With the right examples, maybe it’s possible to turn a negative culture into a positive and encouraging culture.
Let’s start with a few tools for social media etiquette
1. Understand the definition of cyberbullying
Let’s be realistic with the risks of going online by fully understanding the definition of cyberbullying. If you know what to look for, you’ll have the tools to protect yourself. Common Sense Media has a guide for parents called Cyberbullying, Haters and Trolls. It includes answers to popular questions about how to recognize cyberbullying, what to do if kids are bullied, and how to teach safe online behavior.
2. Follow great people
With one look at the Instagram grid view for any online profile, you can quickly assess whether images are appropriate or inappropriate for a particular age group. For my young teens, we opt to follow role models in their area of interest. This includes, for example, social media accounts for sports, art, or dance. Finding positive role models amidst the vast landscape of shocking celebrity profiles can take some time but it’s worth the due diligence. In addition, we make sure plenty of close friends and family members are also linked to our children’s online networks.
3. Use platform features to create safe boundaries
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all have privacy settings. Accounts can be customized to be private, blocked, or unfollowed. If harassment is on the rise, ignore, block, delete or report those people or posts. These tools are available and easy to use, and can be effective in setting up smaller, safer spaces online.
What ideas do you have about social media etiquette for all ages? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments so we can continue the learning process.
Photo credit: Creative Commons Image