Back to School- 9 Things Students Should Never Do On Social Media

October 3, 2012

We want the best for our young people and for them to see the need to avoid these common social media pitfalls.  Although young people hate being given more rules these common sense guidelines can help them see the importance of thinking through their actions.

The fact is what they post could potentially have long term negative consequences on their future by effecting their education,  career, and even by hurting others.

9 common mistakes young people make:

1. Posting while upset

We’ve all made mistakes and said and done things we later regret. It’s human nature to react emotionally and without thinking through the consequences. Posting an angry message may feel cathartic, but will it be worth the damage it causes?  Take a moment to breathe, and think through the consequences before posting anything.

2. Ignoring School Policies

Many  schools prohibit use of school computers or any computer activity on their networks that is not directly related to coursework.   That includes social media use, especially that which is objectionable or inappropriate such as anything obscene or profane.  Many schools have implemented systems that track log ins and IP addresses.  Meaning you shouldn’t assume you can get away with an occasional status update or tweet.

School policies vary widely, according to religious affiliation, type of school (public vs. private),  gender (co-ed vs. single-gender), location, etc. Behavior or posted opinions that maybe accepted at one school could be grounds for expulsion at another.  While many types of content posted to social media are protected by free speech, your school could find a way to use such opinions toward disciplinary action.

3. Bullying

Bullying is considered one of the  serious problems in schools today. Bullying and harassment between students has lead to violence, depression, murder and suicide. When a student uses any kind of  social media as a forum to hurt others, the risks are immeasurable.  Not only does that student face expulsion, but could also face serious criminal prosecution. Bullying and harassment can apply to teachers as well not just other students.  Students who trash or speak poorly of instructors, or post embarrassing photos of them run a risk.  Teachers  have a right to privacy and to be treated with respect.  Nor is it wise  for students to burn their bridges.

Washington State law which prohibits harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB) in our schools. RCW 28A.300.285 defines harassment, intimidation and bullying as any intentionally written message or image—including those that are electronically transmitted—verbal, or physical act, including but not limited to one shown to be motivated by race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, including gender expression or identity, mental or physical disability or other distinguishing characteristics, when an act:

  • Physically harms a student or damages the student’s property.
  • Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s education.
  • Is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating or threatening educational environment.
  • Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school.

Bullying is repeated negative behavior toward a less powerful person or persons. Hitting, name-calling, shunning, and shaming are all forms of bullying. Spreading rumors, gossiping and making threats are also forms of bullying. For further information in cyberbullying, see Safety Center Internet Safety.

Keep in mind admissions officers thoroughly investigate applicants  social media activities.  Remind students not to post negative comments about specific colleges or geographical areas .  One negative message could seal the fate of your college acceptance.

4. Posting Specific Location Check-Ins and Confidential Information

This piece of advice goes for every social media user, not just students.  But young people are especially vulnerable to online predators and identity thieves.  It is never smart to share date of birth, social security numbers, and other private information online.  The user may have their info on a private setting and feel comfortable sharing their personal info with their friends.  But what if just one of their friends setting is not private and they like or share the info.
The user should also not be too specific with online check-ins.  Posts like these make it easy for predators to locate the person. And it is especially unwise to  check in on social media when a person is alone and/or in a remote location. Nor is it smart to post the dates you will be gone on vacation or indicate online that you are out of town and no one is home.

5. Lying and/or Cheating

Imagine:  A student has convinced an instructor to allow an extension on an assignment based on a bogus reason. The real reason the student blew off the assignment is to attend a concert and then posts their status and photos to MySpace or Facebook.   OOPS.  The student shouldn’t be surprised when the instructor finds out they lied and gives them an F.

The same goes for lying about professional/academic achievements when applying to a job, college or an internship.  More than ever companies are using numerous tools to verify and investigate.  Just as they can use  social media to investigate charges of plagiarism or cheating.

6. Threatening Others

Threatening a person or group of people in any situation is considered serious. Even posting an anonymous, empty threat to an obscure online forum full of strangers will raise red flags. And as soon as authorities have been notified of a threat, they are suppose to take it serious and have the right to investigate — and they often do.

Social Media is not the place to vent frustrations or violent thoughts.  It is better that a frustrated young person speak with a school counselor to work through their frustrations.

7. Unprofessional Public Profiles

Whether a high school student is applying for an entry level job  or a college graduate is looking to start their career the social media presence needs to reflect responsibility.

Chances are the company will looking into your history and at your social media presence.  And sometimes,  a completely private social media profile could set off red flags with a potential employer.   A professional public profile is the ideal for someone seeking employment.

8. Depending on Privacy Settings

Although most major social networks are continually working to make privacy improvements, the changes  can get complicated or be too frequent to keep up with.  However, diligently a young person may work to protect their identity, it’s best to assume anything posted is fair game — potentially seen by schools, employers, parents and by strangers.

The best rule to go by is if you don’t want something to be seen, don’t post it on the Internet.

9. Posting Illegal Activities

This may seem like a no brainer but it happens far too often.  From seemingly harmless pranks to experimenting with marijuana kids are posting photos that are being used to prosecute them for making a poor choice.  Making the consequences for that poor choice even more severe and long term.