Years ago, my first month on Facebook, I sent a postcard to my husband that said, “Honey, I love you.” It was cute because it posted on his wall. Then I realized I had hit to post it on all my friends’ walls. At that time, I had maybe 80 Facebook friends, and some of them were youth that I knew either through church or youth groups.
My first call was to 1 of them to ask how to fix it. I had to manually go onto each wall and delete it. That was my worst Facebook moment.
Since then, I’ve learned better ways to be a youth leader on social media. There are ways to leverage social media to work well and hopefully lead by good example – or at least not to lead the wrong way by bad example. Tips to follow:
- 13 and over only. Facebook’s guidelines are for age 13 and up, and I won’t knowingly accept friend requests from younger kids.
- Answer, don’t ask. I don’t ask young people to be my friend. That would be creepy. But if they ask, then I answer. People my age who ask young people to friend them raise red flags of their own behavior and motives.
- The less I comment, the more I know. I don’t always comment a lot on young people’s walls because they think adults my age that do that are creepy stalkers.
- When in doubt, call a parent. I did see something questionable once, called a parent, and started a chain of events that ended in the discovery that an out of state stalker had targeted the youth in question.
- Set boundaries. If a young person posts things that I believe could be professionally harmful, I tell the person. Some take those comments better than others. I’ve quietly told young people that having posts that they answer the stupid questions of their employer’s customers, leaving risque comments under your statuses, and letting friend’s post things with 4-letter words on their page can have professional repercussions. Three times when I’ve done this, those young people then unfriended me. That’s fine – that’s their prerogative. No hard feelings. I’ll still state my opinion, just like I would tell anyone I thought who was unintentionally committing professional suicide.
- Listen and encourage. Life is hard. It’s ok to cheer and encourage at any age.
- Filter my own outrage. Life is also unfair. But that doesn’t give me the right to use my Facebook profile to vent my frustrations at others to the point I assassinate their character.
- Don’t private message. I try to limit chats or private messages so that another person is always present in a conversation with a young person.
Keep in mind with all these points I learn as I go and generally learn by mistake.