By Laura Tierney
In the information age, one of the first ways we get to know each other is by checking out one another’s social media profiles. We scroll through Instagram feeds and Facebook posts, reading comments and noticing “likes.” Then, we likely make judgments about one another based on what we see.
Future bosses do this. Prospective football coaches do this. Even college admissions officers do this. And, of course, curious future dates. Social media teenagers check up on each other, too. So, as you prepare to undertake spring cleaning in your household, I suggest having your teen set aside some time to spring clean their social media accounts. (It’s not a bad idea for adults, either.)
Social Media Teenagers
Make sure they’re sharing their best self, following accounts that support their goals, and using all the latest privacy settings to protect themselves. It may be the first impression they make!
Here’s how you can walk them through it:
Step 1: Polish Your Posts
Look back at what you’ve shared, who you followed, the content that you liked and favorited, and the conversations you engaged in on social media this past year. Anything that does not reflect your true self — your values, goals, and interests — edit or delete. Make it shiny. Be proud of everything in your profile and in any comments you have made.
This could take a while, but it’s worth the time. Think of all that could be at stake: a job or internship, acceptance into your dream school, a spot on the team, or a date with that boy or girl.
Step 2: Clean Up Your Contacts List
Many apps pull information from your contacts list, so it’s a good idea to delete contacts you no longer use and merge duplicates of those you do. You may be following someone that you’d rather not be following, just because an app saw that you know so-and-so and automatically added them. Use an app like Smart Merge for Apple devices or Cleaner Pro for Android to make this take just minutes instead of hours.
Step 3: Prune Your “Following” Lists
Make sure that the accounts you’re following reflect the best of who you are and the best of who you want to become. Scroll through your “following” lists on your favorite apps and unfollow anyone or anything that does not support your goals and values. Be picky. Really, really picky. Make sure that what they share is worth your time and attention. Make sure they build you up and challenge you to be the best version of you every time you check your feed.
Step 4: Spruce Up Your Privacy Settings
This part is more about keeping you safe. Devices and apps are updated multiple times a year, so revisit the Privacy section under Settings in the apps you use most often. Once you’re in there, take a look around at other settings. You may be surprised to find, for example, that other people can post content you’re tagged in without your approval. Yikes! Disable that. Do your posts automatically include your location? Turn that off, too. And make sure your phone number, address, school name, and other personal information you may need to use the app isn’t visible to the public.
On your device, consider the following:
- Set a password to access the device
- Disable the device’s location services
- Turn on the new “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature (if you have an iPhone)
Voila! Now your teen is ready to get out there and get that job or volunteer position! Or a spot in that a capella group they love, or that soccer team they want to try out for. Because now, when others find your teen online—and they will—they will see the person you want the world to see.
Laura Tierney is founder and president of The Social Institute, which helps teach tweens and teens to use social media and technology in beneficial, positive ways.