Glass Half Full: Social media a tricky place for teens | SierraSun.com

Glass Half Full: Social media a tricky place for teens

Ruth Glass
Glass Half Full

Several weeks ago I wrote about how those who grew up in my generation were generally raised by a village, as it were, and that nobody’s parents hesitated to correct my friends or me if we were doing anything inappropriate.

It was hard to find cracks in which to fall or hide when I was a girl. I noted that I somewhat rued the day when we lost that sense of community and that many parents today seem challenged to hold their own children accountable, much less anyone else’s.

Recently, I had what, somewhat ironically, I will call the good fortune of finding myself in the middle of what could have been a big problem. Fortunately for all concerned, the parents involved pulled together beautifully.

We live in a time when technology, especially social media, enables instant communication to a very broad audience. This can be a very good thing for thoughtful adults who have the experience and patience to ponder their public messages prior to hitting “Send.”

Alas, the same frequently does not apply to adolescents, whose brain development is often affected by hormones and other factors. Teenagers who are extraordinarily quick to grasp new concepts and who are maturing physically at a rapid rate often take risks that seem out of sync with other choices.

The age-old, “What were you thinking?!” from a parent is best answered by a very honest, “I don’t know.” Many seemingly bad decisions are actually the result of lack of prefrontal cortex development that will allow more rational thought in just a few years. But not now.

Two weeks ago, an Incline mother called me to say her daughter had received some very inappropriate Instagram messages. In addition to being extremely rude, the author invited kids at large to chime in and contribute their own negative comments.

Rightly concerned about her daughter and keen on stopping the text exchange, the mom asked for my advice. I suggested that she take screen shots of the offensive verbiage and forward to me.

Instagram messages disappear quite quickly on their own. I, in turn, sent a message to the mother of the adolescent, non-thinking author, asking her to call me, but first to query her child as to what had been written — letting the child know up front that Mrs. Glass knew exactly what was in the messages.

Approximately two minutes later, I was grateful to receive a “We’re on it” text from the second mother. I had no doubt that they were.

In this particular incident, both sets of parents responded immediately and responsibly. The offender is, in fact, a child I enjoy and appreciate for many legitimate reasons.

The recent poor choice does not negate that. The parents addressed the situation directly, holding their offspring accountable and making no excuses.

Equally significant, multiple young people who could have chosen to say nothing sprang to the defence of the girl who was the target of the messages. I’m proud of our village.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at http://www.laketahoeschool.org.