By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

I know many of you have heard me talking about the dangers of social media for our younger children. We see kids bullying each other, sending inappropriate pictures to each other and getting onto inappropriate websites.

But there is really another part of the story. What happens next? And what are the long term consequences, not just to victims of these social media events. But, what happens to those kids sending inappropriate messages and posting inappropriate pictures?

We are beginning to find out. This spring, Harvard rescinded acceptances for least 10 prospective students because of sexually explicit messages, sometimes targeting minority groups, in a private Facebook group chat. I know that many parents and school counselors tell kids about this. But many just won’t listen. As most of us who have had or worked with teens know, teens tend to think they have it all under control. They believe they are infallible and that colleges would never bother to check out their individual social media pages. The reality for teens is that the frontal lobes in their brains are not fully developed until their early to mid-20’s. The frontal lobes are responsible for reasoning and judgement. So, while they may feel very grown up and at times act grown up, their choices can often reflect their immaturity in good judgement. They may even be able to say what is right and wrong. But as one young college student told me about why she engaged in some very appropriate behavior: “it is so fun!”.

The Sunday Courant (6/11/17) notes that earlier this year, Kaplan Test Prep released a survey showing that 35% of college admission officers surveyed at 365 colleges said they check an applicant’s social media, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to learn more about them. And the National Association for College Admission Counseling says that between a quarter and a third of colleges revoke offers of admission for one reason or another each year.

Uconn and other CT colleges seem to be a bit less aggressive in checking social media accounts of their applicants. But, according to Nathan Fuerst, director of Admissions at Uconn, they have reminded a few offers based on information brought to them by others who know the applicant and suggest that their posts be assessed.

Over the years, this has been an issue for some adults applying for particular jobs. Years ago I had a police officer tell me that when she applied for her current job, the interviewer made her hand over her phone so she could check her Facebook page right away. There was no time to check things out and remove anything offensive.

So what can be done? Here are a few tips:

1. Parents and Counselors keep telling kids what can happen.
2. Give them facts. Show them articles about college admissions being rescinded.
3. Model good behavior. Check your own social media posts for evidence of inappropriate, unkind or sexually explicit content.
4. Monitor your kids’ posts. They may object. But…you are, generally, paying the bill!
5. Remind everyone that if what they have posted they would not want to share with their grandmother, they better take it down and never post anything like that again.


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