“So when did social media become this loathsome place?”
That question was posed in an article that we came across this week, published in a blog called “Natural Diet”. The article itself is from last July but it’s new to us, and in it the author makes the point that social media as a platform contributes greatly to cyberbullying.
While the article makes some good points, one of its assertions is that social media lacks positive role models for teens. With this point we strongly disagree.
Of course social media can be used for cyberbullying, as well as many other types of objectionable behavior. Social media itself is not the problem. Teens, depending on their interests, need not look very far to find positive leadership figures that use social media effectively. Let’s use Twitter as an example. Music fans can follow Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13, 70 million followers), who engages with fans, has a consistently positive message and is no stranger to going out of her way to do good deeds for those in need.
President Obama (@BarackObama, 69 million followers) uses Twitter to reinforce the causes he and his administration believe in – healthcare and climate change to name a couple.
Billionaire Bill Gates (@BillGates, 26 million followers) talks earnestly about solving the world’s most pressing issues, and puts his money where his mouth is.
What about teen athletes? There are dozens of stories about college and pro athletes behaving badly online. These are obviously not the role models your teen athlete should be seeking out. Rather, there are dozens of high profile sports figures that make the most of social media while keeping a positive message, and in some cases giving teens a roadmap for how to succeed online.
Check out Stanford football coach David Shaw. (@CoachDavidShaw, 18 million followers).
Stanford has built a great reputation by maintaining high academic standards and performing at a high level on the football field. Coach Shaw:
- Has a consistently positive message
- Retweets his fans and community
- Stresses athletics and academics
- Uses hashtags effectively
If your teen football player wants to follow leaders who will go out of their way to tell players what not to do online, Offensive Line Coach Herb Hand of Auburn (@CoachHand, 25,000 followers) is a good place to start. While coaching at Penn State, Coach Hand was very vocal about dropping recruits because of improper social media use.
Not just a tough rule enforcer, Coach Hand is a huge supporter of his players and his program.
We don’t buy the idea that there aren’t positive role models for teens on social media. They exist in spades, and in every facet of life that might be of interest to your teen. Sure, there are funnier, more combative and more bombastic accounts to follow, but those are not where positive messages come from.
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