Four years ago when I started a social media web company, I never dreamed my phone would ring with businesses wanting to do social media background checks for new hires. Read that line again. Parents, what our kids post, blog, tweet, and pin up on social media during their adolescence could come back to haunt them. Worse than just what your kids might do though social media are pictures posted and tagged by other people. Those can mean the difference of Johnny getting that job out of college or not. Teens don’t realize that social media is real and long lasting and a place where reputations can be destroyed in moments.

This is the fourth installment of my series Six Conversations to Have with Your Teen Starting High School. As discussed in my previous post, Teen Sex Talk: Purity Offers the Best FUTURE Option, you must, must, must, monitor your kids’ social media (in addition to their texting).

For example, as a 44 year old conservative Christian father, who perhaps has aspirations for local future politics, take a look at this picture of me found on a quick search of Facebook.

Fred Dancing at a Rave in 1994

Now for the record, I didn’t take this picture, I didn’t post this picture, it was taken by a friend of a friend, the likes of which I have not spoken to in 20+ years. Since I don’t own this picture, it is out there forever. While I wasn’t drinking, it does look like I am having too much fun with a lamp shade on my head. Furthermore I was at a rave that probably had underage drinking as I was dancing in front of the “Funky Juice” bar in the background. Now I know you are saying, “This isn’t a big deal,” but I beg to differ. This picture doesn’t scream “Future conservative school board member.” Remember also it was taken during a time when we had cameras that would only hold 24 pictures which you had to drop off at your local Photo-mart for pickup a week later.

Teen Social Media Talk: Clean Broadcasting is a LONG Term Option

Today, kids with smart phones take 100s of pictures a day and post them everywhere in seconds on dozens of searchable social media sites. Teens don’t give the slightest thought as to the appropriateness of the pictures they take of themselves or their friends. Teens live for today and tomorrow with little thought of next month, next year or the next decade. Anything broadcasted and not deleted soon after, in retrospect, can be out there forever. Last week in our local Republican primaries, one of the candidates dealt with serious problems. His issue dealt with 10 little words he wrote on his Facebook page years ago. Little things DO matter. So parents here is what you do:

Recommended Steps for Parents Regarding their Teen Social Media Talk

  1. Talk with your kids about the long term and searchable effects of their comments and pictures on social media.
  2. Clean up anything they already have questionable on social media currently.
  3. Monthly Google your kids’ names, not only on the primary web search but also under “image” search.
  4. Open your own social media accounts and follow your kids and their friends.
  5. Weekly sit down with your children and delete, un-tag, and remove inappropriate comments and pictures on your kids’ social media accounts.

Social media posting matters not only in politics, but in scholarships, college entrance exams, future job interviews, insurance coverages and credit reports. Teaching our children to promote clean broadcasting is definitely their best future LONG term option.

What rules do you discuss with your teen in regards to social media? Parents, how do you monitor your teens social media?

Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image courtesy of Brian King.