In light of the current social and political climate, it is essential for teens to understand when and how to engage when confronted with controversial issues on social media. Responsible and thoughtful behavior in online interactions is crucial. Here are some recommendations:
- Don't Respond to Posts by Unknown Users: Don't engage with social media posts from individuals you don't know. Engaging with strangers rarely leads to productive discussions. Instead, these interactions can escalate into heated and hateful exchanges. Prioritize meaningful, in-person conversations when possible.
- Seek Help When A Post Is Offensive and Crosses the Line: If someone is making you uncomfortable by sending you aggressive messages or hateful images because of your political positions, sexual orientation, gender, race, or religion, they are crossing the line and you should seek guidance from an adult. The bottom line is that if you feel threatened or scared by how someone interacts with you online, immediately reach out to an adult.
- Unfollow Offensive Content: Curate your online experiences by unfollowing accounts that consistently post offensive or harmful content. It's important to protect your mental well-being and avoid "hate-following" individuals whose views you strongly disagree with. Such interactions can be detrimental to your emotional health.
- Seek Support: Don’t keep your fears to yourself. If you are worried about your safety or about something that has happened to you online, speak to a teacher, a grade dean, an advisor, or your parents for guidance and support. Never hesitate to seek help and to share your experiences with an adult you trust.
- Check Your Privacy Settings: You can change the privacy settings on your social media platforms to help you control who sees your information, photos, posts, and videos. Think carefully about what you share and with whom. It may seem obvious but don’t share personal information like your address or phone number.
- Report Hate Speech to Online Platforms: Students should report explicit hate speech, threats of violence, or misinformation to the respective social media platform. Every major platform has a process for reporting inappropriate or offensive content. Promote responsible online citizenship by reporting and not tolerating hate speech.
- Avoid Engaging in Online Battles: Don’t respond to controversial posts, even when the author is someone you know. This will further increase the reach of their content. Social media is not an effective platform for productive discussions. Instead, engage in face-to-face conversations for more meaningful dialogue.
- Foster Open and Curious Conversations: If you feel comfortable and safe speaking with the person who posted or shared offensive content, approach them with openness and curiosity. Ask questions to understand the motivations behind the post. Respectfully, explain why the content was hurtful. Oftentimes, people post or share content without fully comprehending the impact of their words.
- Practice Empathy: Social media posts can affect people profoundly, and empathy is crucial. Be mindful of how your classmates might perceive your posts and consider the potential emotional impact on others.
In addition to these guidelines, here are some accounts worth following on social media: