Teens and Social Media – What Parents Need to Know

Parents receive daily warnings on how their teens’ social media activities will hurt their chances of getting into college or finding a job. Rather than dwelling on the well publicized negatives of teen social media use, parents should be working with their teens to unleash the positive storytelling powers of social media.

Parents can help their teens tell their story by using videos, photos and words to describe their individual talents, interests, activities and accomplishments. Not only will these efforts benefit your teen when seen by college officials but building a positive presence also negates the impact of any pre-existing adolescent social media activities.

Teens tend to use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Tumblr for their friend to friend social media activities. Parents can suggest using other social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Google+ to build out their optimized presence so as to not interfere with their teen’s closely guarded social activities. Twitter can also be repurposed for networking use.

What each of these three social platforms have in common and what sets them apart from other major social media platforms used by teens is that they are not necessarily built on existing friendships. These platforms provide a means to find and be found by people you don’t currently know but who share common interests. Whether it’s participating in group discussions on LinkedIn, finding a Community to join on Google+ or following the tweets and engaging with a fresh group of liked minded people on Twitter, these platforms provide a positive environment for exchanging ideas and creating one’s discoverable personal brand. Over time, your teen can build a following and a presence based on the merit of his or her contributions.

These platform examples are not intended to be exclusive by any means. Creative types may be drawn to Pinterest. Facebook contains many underutilized options to segregate personal from professional content while Instagram, YouTube and personal blogs can also play an important role in nurturing a positive and visible online presence.

Most importantly, because these platforms tend to rank very favorably and high on native Google Search, chances are that these will be the activities that colleges will see. Also, when building out their authentic presence, teens should be encouraged to not be shy or humble about posting and linking their accomplishments as college admission standards remain ultra-competitive.

Here are some basic suggestions:

LinkedIn

Last year, LinkedIn lowered its minimum profile age to 13 years while also introducing their University Pages. University Pages offer teens a way to engage with current students, alumni, faculty and staff of the colleges they are interested in attending. Once you have helped your teen complete their keyword specific LinkedIn profile, they can select the colleges they would like to follow. They can keep track of conversations and issues relating to that institution and, in time, learn how to engage in conversations by commenting on discussions or connecting with people affiliated with that college. These interactions also demonstrate interest in the school which is an important factor in admissions. Having a LinkedIn presence is also helpful for increasing the chances of being found by colleges and other recruiters.LinkedIn is not simply a resume so teens should be encouraged to post profile links to their projects, portfolios and writings.

Google+

A pre-condition to Google+ is having a Gmail account. This requirement presents the perfect opportunity for your teen to obtain a proper Gmail address for responsible future correspondence. Work with your teen to generate an email address that is as close to his/her name as possible (if the name is already taken then try adding a geographical suffix such as firstname.lastnameNYC@gmail.com or some other descriptive derivative). Once the Gmail address is secured, click on the G+ icon within Gmail and complete the Google+ “About” profile page. The Google+ “About” page template is very easy to use and provides your teen with the opportunity to tell their story in their own words. It also provides a place to add links to all of your teen’s other social media profiles, personal websites and blogs.

Twitter

Yes Twitter. Most teens approach Twitter solely as a site to interact with their friends –  140 characters at a time. This usage is all wrong. Both parent and teen can learn together that Twitter is an extremely powerful networking tool that builds influence and awareness over time. Have your teen start fresh by coming up with a Twitter handle that incorporates their name or some recognizable derivative thereof and write a serious profile description using keywords. Search for people who share your teen’s interests or who are experts in their field of interest. Regularly review postings and help your teen retweet and add comments as appropriate.

Today, the ability to proactively manage social media to authentically reflect your persona, skills and attributes is becoming an important life skill. Parents who take the time to work with their teens to teach them this powerful yet all too often unrealized side of social media will be doing them a great service.