A gun cannot kill anyone until it is loaded, a trigger is pulled, and someone is in the line of fire. Again, the same could be said about social media. Social media is loaded when it is on your computer or smart phone. The trigger is the send button. And whomever is named in the post or tweet, is in the line of fire.
My analogy may not be pleasant, but it does help to gain attention to a problem younger people have that my generation did not have. Like guns, social media is harmless until it is in the hands of the wrong person--or any person with no guidance. Unfortunately, the similarity continues because social media, like guns, can give leverage to bring much greater harm to those who would do harm.
What has Changed with Social Media?
Kids these days, as always, need social acceptance. Whereas this used to take place more intimately and privately, social media has made this quest quite public. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or the latest social media craze of which I have not yet heard, kids must have a certain number of comments or ‘likes’, or the kids shrink into a mild depression. “Don’t my friend’s like me?” “Should I be embarrassed--since no one commented?” “Am I losing popularity?” “Am I not funny or clever?” To them, a message with little or no response is missing the target and embarrassing!
Further, an immature or reckless person can ruin their reputation and future with just a push of a button. They will be quite aware of what they are doing, but unaware of the potential current or future consequences. I have relatives, under the age of twenty-five, that are not adverse to using the f-word on social media, and one that has even posted a pornographic drawing. Of course I objected, but it does little to stop them since I have no control over their behavior. Their parents failed, lost or ignored their opportunity to establish reasonable values and limits.
Getting back to the gun analogy, these ‘twenty-somethings’ have administered a self-inflicted wound to their lives. Amazingly, they think they are gaining popularity with this display of crassness! And they may be—but with a VERY impressionable, immature, and unimpressive crowd.
We’ve all seen the photos or 'selfies' of people who are drunk, misbehaving, being obscene, etc. Sometimes they are not objectionable in the right setting or context, but in the sterile setting of a Facebook page or Instagram photo, the context is left to the eyes of the beholder. If the beholder is a prospective employer or father-in-law, you’re done!
Unfortunately, basing your happiness, or revealing your crudeness on a public forum is not even close to the worse that can happen. Personal attacks occur that can be devastating. Too often we hear on the news that someone, usually someone young, has committed suicide based on a public attack on a social media format. When this occurs, the social media weapon is literally deadly! As deadly as being shot with a gun through the heart.
While you may think I am anti-social media, I am actually a big fan. I frequently post photos, brag about my grand kids, publicize my blog, keep up with relatives who live far away, and love to see the posts of my friends and most of my family. It’s not social media that is bad, it’s how social media is handled. That's not to say that social media companies shouldn't do their part to minimize misuse.
What Can Parents Do?
It is up to parents to take control of the misuse or abuse of social media! You shouldn’t leave a gun in reach of your children nor should you allow your children to use social media without your supervision. Be the responsible person you should be as a parent. Take a stand, have rules, don’t trust their judgment, have no-notice check-ups of their social media activity. Unattended, social media can ruin your children’s lives or the lives of others. No—wait! Those of us USING social media can ruin lives! Including our own.