I’m sure most parents will agree that it’s important to talk to your teens about keeping it clean and appropriate on social media, but it’s tough to actually make the time to do it – lives are busy and it seems like we rarely slow down for long enough to actually have a conversation. One thing that many teens are eager to talk about at this time of year is their upcoming prom. It’s a great idea for parents to make time in that conversation to ensure that social media isn’t the wild card that ends up making the prom memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Currently, there are over 6 million photos on Instagram alone with the hashtag #prom. No doubt most of them are fine, but each one could cause a problem if posted carelessly, either leading up to or at the prom. Here are some things to remember, and discuss with your teen, that will help him or her avoid some unfortunate pitfalls:
Be nice – Prom is a big night and emotions run high. Your friends will be keyed up, and some of them will be nervous. Make sure those posts and pictures on Instagram and Snapchat talk about the positive aspects of the night, and aren’t jabs against someone else. Some semi-friendly online sparring can blow up quickly.
If you’re unsure of your outfit, don’t take to social media to test it out – It seems like more and more of the pre-prom routine is playing out on Facebook or Instagram. If you are unsure about your dress (or your date, or your hair) as tempting as it might seem to test it out online before the big night, don’t. Rather than asking your 500 Facebook friends or Twitter followers how that dress looks, just ask a couple of close friends in person and avoid the potential embarrassment.
Don’t post anything that you might regret – Actually, don’t do anything you might regret, but if you do, don’t post it online – especially pictures, which are worth a thousand words. Prom night can get a little crazy so think twice before your post anything.
Set accounts to private – This is a perfect time to check your accounts and see whether you’re happy with your privacy settings. It will serve as a reminder of who exactly will see what you do post. This might seems like a long shot, but if you’re being followed on Twitter by the admissions department of that college you’d like to get into, you need to be extra careful.
Purge your accounts of “friends” who may share or repost your stuff – The old saying “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” is terrible advice when it comes to teens and social media. Even if your accounts are set to private, your content can be reposted and made public by one of your “friends” with a public account.
Your secret account might not always be secret – If you have a social media account where you use a pseudonym, it’s possible that nobody knows (yet) that it’s really you. That doesn’t mean that others can’t figure out that it’s you, just that they haven’t yet. If you post something embarrassing or controversial using your prom’s hashtag (e.g. #ValleyHighProm), people might want to start digging into your identity.
Beware of pictures that others are taking – Even if you keep your own pictures clean on prom night, remember that every single person there has a camera and will be taking pictures. Make sure that you don’t show in a regrettable picture that is taken and posted by someone else.
The bottom line is that prom night should be a special experience. Part of the secret to keeping it that way is avoiding a social media mistake that becomes a public embarrassment.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.