The Family Project: Social media upsets
Q. My 19-year-old daughter went away for the weekend with some friends. Someone posted photos on social media sites, and they include my daughter drinking and engaging in unacceptable behavior. One photo is definitely of her drunk. She is very upset and realizes that she made a few bad decisions. Should she be worried that someone could see these social media postings? She is applying to colleges.
The panel of experts first addressed the issue of photos on social media. “If the family has some means, there are services out there that can go into the web site and can erase them to the extent that they can,” claimed panelist Mike Daniels. “If you Google the 19-year-old’s last name it [the photos] will come up.”
“She could go to whomever posted them and ask them to take them down,” panelist Pam Wallace said. “She could also go online and post positive, appropriate pictures.”
Daniels agreed about asking the person who took the photos to take them down, adding that the girl should have a conversation with that person about not knowing the photos were going to be posted, and that she did not give her permission.
“Maybe for the future, the girl should try to develop a culture among her friends that they ask permission before posting a photo,” panelist Denise Continenza suggested. “Taking a picture is one thing. Posting it online is another. She could stress that ‘It’s about protecting all of us.’”
Another conversation the panelists agreed should be held is one between the girl and her parents. “Are the parents concerned about the behavior, or the behavior being documented?” panelist Chad Stefanyak asked. “That’s a great conversation to have,” Daniels said. “What’s the problem? You’re breaking the law.”
“If she were my daughter, I would be concerned about her underage drinking,” panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said. Daniels countered, “I wouldn’t make an issue of the behavior unless it represents a pattern.” As for consequences of the web postings on the girl’s college applications and future career, Daniels urged, “Be prepared to be honest with college and job recruiters.”
Mercado-Arroyo called the incident a “teachable moment” that can be used to provide a lesson not only for the 19-year-old, but for others. “It provides a chance to consider actions and consequences.” Wallace observed that “we live in a society where we feel we have to document everything we do all the time. Every time we go someplace, we have to take a picture. We need to develop a mindset that we don’t have to always show people what we are doing.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh County Children and Youth Casework Supervisor.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project weekly column is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.