We’ve all heard the horror stories of social media mishaps having serious repercussions. For example, Harvard rescinded acceptance for at least 10 students over their behavior in a private Facebook group in 2017. Which makes it clear that what you do privately on social media can affect your chances of getting in (and staying in) your dream school or dream career.
However, it’s important to have a strategy in place for if/when you (or your student) makes a mistake on social media. How you react will make all of the difference for your digital footprint, online reputation, and search results. So, we asked 5 experts to share their best tips for overcoming social media mishaps.
1. Students should take down the post and apologizePaula Nolan, M.Ed, @NolanPaulaJ
As a school administrator, almost every day I worked with students who have made a mistake on social media. I saw the fallout in the school setting and how it impacted the student who wrote the post, those who the post was about, and the families on both sides of the conflict.
Usually, these mistakes involved the student being upset with someone and then taking talking about it online. Most of the time they didn’t mean what they said and they feel bad about what they posted. Or, they were upset but didn’t realize how far and wide the post would go.
When a student makes a mistake, the initial steps to end their social fallout are relatively easy. First, the student would take down the post. Then, they should send a message to the person who the post was about and apologize. Third, and sometimes this needed some facilitation, was to actually talk to the person who was offended by the post and work out a solution to the issue.
It is also important for the student to tell their friends to also stop antagonizing the targeted person. If they can’t stop it, the school can help by talking with the students who continue to post.
Then, work with the families on encouraging the student to not post or look at social media (both while the mistake was being fixed and for future times when they were upset). It can be difficult for students to take those breaks, so that can be work for parents. However, our students who took the advice above have frequently reported to us that they were happier not engaging in online conflict.
2. The best defense is building a strong offense in the digital worldJosh Ochs, SmartSocial.com
The best defense is building a strong offense in the digital world.
To avoid making mistakes on social media, ensure that you are creating lots of positive content that can be seen as Light, Bright and Polite™ online. You can still have fun, be silly and show your humor, just make sure it’s positive with a touch of gratitude. If you’ve made a mistake online, remove the post and apologize immediately (but remember that once something is shared on social media it can be posted elsewhere).
To create a positive offense, consider creating a personal website.
Having a personal website is one of the best ways to overcome social media mishaps, if a certain negative post is persisting in your search results.
Your personal website is a great way to shine online and show your unique personality. Use your website to highlight school projects, hobbies, passion work, volunteer work, or family vacation photos. We have a Website Workshop that helps you build your website in less than an hour. We create fun, easy to follow videos and training guides that make your student an expert on their website in just a few minutes.
3. Be active and involved while watching for warning signsTitania Jordan, Bark, @JoinBark
Monitoring what your child is getting into online can be scary and feel next to impossible. And when it comes to mistakes on social media, your kids might not tell you when something has happened. That’s why parents must be on the lookout for potential warning signs of dangerous situations. Trust your instincts but know that your instincts depend on you being active and involved. Watch for changes in your child’s:
- Communication (are they more withdrawn?)
- Eating and sleeping patterns
- Clothing (the way they dress)
- Social media posts (the frequency of posting and/or the content)
What should you do if you discover a mistake they have made?
Stay calm. How you react can leave a lasting impression. Have a conversation, not a shouting match.
Be supportive, not scolding. Your child may feel ashamed by their mistake. You want to be able to see through your child’s eyes. Being supportive is the only way to do this.
Build trust while setting expectations. More than likely this is a journey, not a one-time experience. Let your child know how you deal with these types of situations.
Keep asking questions. Continuing the conversation over weeks, months, and years is the best thing you can do. Check in occasionally, and don’t shy away when the subject arises. This way, an awkward situation turns into an opportunity to strengthen communication.
Put filtering and monitoring systems in place. There’s absolutely no way a parent can monitor their children’s entire online world. From searches, to the content they are sharing, the sheer volume makes it impossible. There are amazing tools out there that not only block content, but also let you know what your child is doing online. Put these in place now.
4. Make meaningful apologies coupled with meaningful actionAlexis Moore, Attorney & Author
After making any mistakes online in a social media setting or other online forum, delete the said post and acknowledge that you made a mistake. If an apology is needed, make that apology because somewhere someone has that post that you should not have posted and the best way to put it to be bed is to take care of it by deleting, acknowledging, and taking more time in the future not to repeat the social posting offense. One thing many of my younger clients do not realize is that taking responsibility means correcting course – employers, co-workers, classmates, family, and friends will accept a heartfelt apology but most importantly if one does not take responsibility for the post, repeats the same conduct over and over, and tries to say sorry as a band aid this won’t work. So, make meaningful apologies coupled with meaningful action.
Social media is not the enemy, however your relationship with it and utilizing it can be! If you catch yourself spending more time online than with family and friends in person, this is a bad sign. Or, if you find yourself literally unable to avoid checking in on a social site without interrupting a obligation with family, friends, studies, work, or your day-to-day life, then this is a sign that there is trouble. There is no shame in having to find ways to learn how to detox from social media and not to allow it to take over one’s daily life. If you sense that social media is impacting your daily life negatively, (as an interruption rather than an adjunct to better life) then it’s time to reassess the situation with social media and get use it with a purpose as opposed to a pastime.
As the leading expert and attorney in the field of cyberstalking, I strongly suggest for today’s youth (and those that are finding it difficult to use social media without it being a burden vs a benefit) to open up dialogue with others in person! There are many others experiencing the same problem with social media. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, fellow classmates, or family, what they do to overcome mistakes on social media.
5. Avoid social media mishaps by creating accounts with a purposeJoel Bennett, Tokeet
Allow your teens to have social media accounts for their projects only, not personal accounts. For example, if your child has a woodworking hobby they can make an account to post their builds and network with other carpenters. Depending on their age, you may need to help them get set up. It’s a sort of compromise for parents who don’t want their kids on social media. It gives them a reason to be more productive and helps them see social media and the internet as a tool rather than a strictly social outlet.
Social media mistakes are bound to happen but how you react will make all of the difference for your digital footprint, online reputation, and search results. Being prepared is the best method for preventing social media mishaps, students should set guidelines around social media posting such as:
- Avoid posting online when they are upset
- Consider how their post can be interpreted by employers, teachers, parents, college admissions officers, or their peers
- Keeping posts Light, Bright and Polite™
- Creating social media accounts with a purpose to highlight their school projects, hobbies, or volunteer work
If you make a social media mistake, it can be relatively easy to fix. Delete the post immediately, apologize for the mistake, then reach out and apologize to the target of the post (if there is one). If a negative post is coming up in the first 2 pages of your search results, create a personal website that highlights your thought leadership to push it further down into your search results. If you want help building the perfect website for your student resume, we offer a 1 week Website Workshop program.
What are your best tips for overcoming social media mishaps? Let us know in the comments below!