Saturday, February 22, 2014

Think Before You Tweet

Facebook is passé. Snapchat isn't as effective. Twitter is the social media outlet of choice for teenage boys. At least the teen boys that I know around the Twin Cities. As the Mom of a 15-year old boy, I am learning why Twitter can be a dangerous tool.

High school boys don't necessarily think before they tweet; sometimes they don't think before they talk either. The problem arises when these boys tweet their thoughts, reactions, ideas, etc. on this very public forum—Twitter—as if they were having a somewhat private locker room conversation. Tweets are certainly not private, all sorts of people read them, and once deleted they really don't disappear do they?

But how to explain this to a teenage boy? Case in point. A 17-year old boy from Rogers, Minnesota has just made very clear the dangerous repercussions of an "innocent" tweet. To make a long, ugly story short a smart Senior from Rogers High School, who is the captain of the football and basketball teams, made a horrible mistake. When asked over a Twitter exchange if he was in an improper relationship with a young physical education teacher, this Senior answered "actually, yes." It seems his Twitter  response was posted onto a "sexually charged" web page "Rogers Confessions" on ask.fm. (an open exchange social media site). His friends responded that his response was a sarcastic remark about a nonexistent relationship that was blown out of context.

This web page is now defunct but a supposedly innocent tweet has resulted in the 17-year old student being suspended from school for two months. The criminal charges against him were dropped today due to lack of evidence regarding his tweet. The gym teacher, who is caught in the middle of this snarl, continues to work but probably feels harassed by her students. Students staged a rally to "free" the alleged inappropriate tweeter. Both the student and the teacher have suffered irreparable damages to their reputations.

What does this teach us? I fall back on my number one rule of social media—don't be stupid! As I try to drill this into the heads of my own kids, think before you tweet, post, or  Snapchat I hope they will remember. All it takes is one stupid tweet and it doesn't matter if you are a straight A student or the captain of the football team. In an instant a young life is turned upside down. All because of one stupid tweet.

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