18 Rules on using Social Media to discuss with your adolescent mentee

18 Rules on using Social Media to discuss with your adolescent mentee

Neither a computer nor a mobile phone can take the place of a person – build meaningful relationships face to face.

How many adolescents do you know who have ended up in trouble because their online behavior has been inappropriate?

I heard of yet another case the other day. A teenager lent her phone to another boy who discovered an inappropriate photograph of the girl and forwarded it on to a friend of his, who then passed it around. It had a sad ending, as the school expelled the students involved, not a decision I would support in most cases, as schools and families should see themselves as people tasked with educating young people on how to use technology responsibly.

This is but one of way too many stories that I have heard and so I decided to do a bit of research about the responsible use of technology, specifically computers and mobile phones.One of the things I have learnt over the years is that many young people are not as technologically savvy as we think they are. Indeed, many are fairly ignorant of some fairly basic common sense behaviors one should follow when using technology.

It is also worth remembering that the adolescent brain is at a key point of development and the Pre-Frontal Cortex, the Chief Executive area of the brain, where planning and decision-making occurs, is still maturing and will continue to do so until the mid-20s. Thus, adolescents tend to react more emotionally to issues going on in their lives than adults would and that partly explains why one witnesses hurtful, emotional outbursts on social media.

A mentor can have repeated conversations about the responsible use of social media with their mentee and, as they build a relationship of trust, the mentee might ask more questions, reveal concerns etc. as they try and understand the enormous responsibility every individual should feel when communicating with others via social media.

As a result of the research I have done in recent weeks, what follows are the most common 18 Rules which a mentor can discuss with their mentee about the responsible use of computers and mobile phones. If the mentor might struggle to discuss all these, simply print out the Blog and hand a copy to the mentee.

  1. Make sure all your privacy settings are activated on all social media sites you use, thus making sure that people you don’t know will be unable to see your posts. Keep checking your Profile, removing anything that might be too personal or inappropriate.
  2. Never give out any of your Usernames or Passwords to friends or anyone you meet online.
  3. Use different Usernames and Passwords to protect yourself from hackers.
  4. Don’t use silly email addresses, especially if you are applying for Scholarships, awards jobs etc.
  5. Only accept friend requests from real friends you personally know. Even then, check their profile before accepting.
  6. NEVER give away your phone number or home address online.
  7. Only download software after you have discussed this with your parents or an adult you trust.
  8. Remember that everything you post online is PUBLIC. It makes no difference whether or not you delete it at some time in the future. It can be traced back to you.
  9. Be highly selective of what you post online. Will your parents approve? NEVER post anything online or send anything you would be embarrassed for anyone important to you to see. When in doubt, check with your parents and/or an adult you trust. A good rule is NEVER to post pictures of others without their permission.
  10. Avoid going into chat rooms and revealing personal information about yourself. Many people who go online lie about who they really are.
  11. NEVER post anything online when you are angry, so you don’t say anything you might regret later. Also, don’t respond to anything online when you are emotionally charged up in any way.
  12. Avoid responding to messages online that are unkind/hurtful or potentially damaging either to you or others. If you are concerned about a message, talk to your parents or an adult you trust. Stay true to the Golden Rule: Do to others what you would like them to do to you. PAUSE before you post!
  13. Avoid speaking about your personal problems or challenges with your friends online. Rather phone or chat face to face – it’s safer.
  14. Avoid speaking to strangers online – and NEVER agree to meet someone that you have met online if you don’t know them in real life. Speak to your parents or an adult you trust immediately if one of these people wants to meet up with you.
  15. Avoid posting or sending inappropriate photos as you might be breaking the law and end up in trouble with the Police, especially if you are underage. If you receive inappropriate posts, tell your parents or an adult you trust immediately.
  16. Don’t overshare on social media. People don’t really want to know everything you are doing for every minute of the day! Social media is not only about you!
  17. Negotiate the use of a computer and mobile phone at home with your parents, as this will build trust and responsibility and assist your adolescent journey to independence or interdependence.
  18. Place your mobile phone and computer in another room at night, as you need nine hours sleep EVERY night.

These points should lead to further interesting discussions about the use of technology and how one develops one’s Digital footprint.

Perhaps you have an interesting story to share or an additional point to share?

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organiser, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can join him on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or contact him through his YES! website