Jobs and college offers are lost because of offensive social media posts. Here’s how to talk to your teen about this life-changing issue.

27-year-old Alexi McCammond had to step down from her new post as editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue magazine once a slew of anti-Asian and homophobic comments she made nearly 10 years ago were brought to public attention.

In tweets she wrote as a 17-year-old at the University of Chicago, McCammond said, “Give me a 2/10 on my chem problem, cross out all of my work and don’t explain what i did wrong..thanks a lot stupid asian T.A. you’re great.” Another said, “Now googling how to not wake up with swollen, asian eyes…”

As a political writer for the news site Axios, McCammond was already an acclaimed reporter named the year’s emerging journalist by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2019. Her experience, awards, and ability did not save her. In a statement McCammond posted Twitter, she said, “My past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues that I care about—issues that Teen Vogue has worked tirelessly to share with the world—and so Condé Nast and I have decided to part ways. I should not have tweeted what I did, and I have taken full responsibility for that.”

Colleges have rescinded admissions offers to high school seniors due to racist posts on social media. In 2017, Harvard told ten incoming freshmen to stay home because they participated in an offensive Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” The group was an offshoot of a larger Harvard Class of 2021 Facebook group, and members traded memes that were sometimes racist or obscene.

I don’t know about you, but when I was seventeen, I made some bad choices. Thankfully, there was no Internet or social media. My mistakes only live in the memories of the people there, and thirty-plus years later, memories are fading. Our children do not get that grace. When they hit the send or post button, it’s out there forever. They get ONE CHANCE to make the right choice. Think about that. How would you have done living with the permanency of the Internet?

Here are some discussion topics to have with your teen:

It is permanent

Once you publish something on the Internet, it does not belong to you anymore. It can be copied, reposted elsewhere, and used for some unintended purpose. It is true, you can delete posts on social media sites, but often before this can be done, others have screenshot your post and saved it on their device to be posted later.

Privacy is an illusion

A private post or message is never truly private. Social media apps that claim to delete your content after the recipient reads it (e.g., Snapchat) are easily circumvented. I have personally investigated many incidents where the sender believed a communication was private and later learned the message had been shared with others.

Discuss ways to establish a digital reputation you can be proud of. Try this: Help your child identify a cause or charity they are or can be passionate about. Then look for an organization that supports that cause and posts updates on social media. Have your child “follow” one of the charity’s social media feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc). Have your child share (repost) the charity’s posts on their social network. They can include a personal comment about how they feel about what the charity is doing. Encourage your child to find ways to support the charity in other ways. If it’s a local charity, go and volunteer with them, or help fundraise in your neighborhood.

This is an abridged excerpt from Clayton Cranford’s updated book, Parenting in the Digital World (Third Edition). To learn more about how to talk to your child about sexting, predators, bullying, pornography, and how to make all of your child’s devices safe with the latest parental control settings, get Clayton’s eBook or the paperback at Amazon.

References:

https://www.ajc.com/education/get-schooled-blog/racist-tweets-she-posted-at-17-cost-her-a-dream-job-at-27/3EMHQFRICRBLJGMOL2ZC5OPMGY/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/26/opinions/alexi-mccammond-teen-vogue-what-comes-next-jones/index.html

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