You can’t turn around without your child engaging on a social media platform of some sort. Currently Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are the most popular among teens.
Instagram is typically utilized to showcase the “fantastic” life your kids lead and all the “friends” they have. Notice it’s in quotes? Yes, because most of it isn’t real – but more on that later. Our teenagers are using Twitter to express their opinions with the hope that their social circle will like, comment and share their tweets, thus providing social proof they are “relatable”. And then there’s Snapchat! Our kids don’t want us to know what they are doing on Snapchat or why they are using it. But suffice to say, they believe it to be untraceable. If I had a dime for everytime my son came home and told me about screenshots he had seen while on the bus to an away game, I’d be taking the whole family out for a steak dinner tonight!
Our teens have a certain understanding of what communicating on these social platforms means. Even my college-aged daughter speaks in terms of someone “sliding into her DMs”. It’s a great way to locate someone you want to meet without knowing their phone number. You just find them on a social media platform and send them a message (the definition of sliding into DMs, for those that didn’t know).
But what about the postings that are public, or even those on locked or private accounts? Can they be used against your teen when it comes to the recruiting process? ABSOLUTELY!!! And it’s not just as it relates to athletic recruiting.
What’s acceptable to the recruiters, you may be wondering? The bigger question is what’s acceptable to high schools and colleges in general. At the high school level, parents and administrators are browsing student accounts and reporting their findings to school administrators and law enforcement. It’s not just kids that are using these platforms. Gone are the days that parents are going to let someone knowingly deal drugs to their children, threaten to do violence to their school or socially bully other students. Quite routinely the first line of defense in salvaging a teen going down the wrong path has become social media. This is social media used for good. If you aren’t watching your teen’s accounts, it’s almost a guarantee that another parent knows something about your child that you don’t.
Hopefully, by the time an older teen is preparing to apply for college, they have figured out that postings with questionable content are a mistake. But not always. The high school graduating class of 2016 had 2 Elite college acceptances withdrawn because of events that happened at graduation parties. Now that hurts!
For the sake of conversation, let’s assume your kid’s profiles are clean as a whistle. What do the athletic recruiters want to see? First, it’s sportsmanship! Are your kids supporting their teammate’s successes? Are they positive and congratulatory to their friends and opponents? Being a good teammate can make the difference when competing for athletic scholarships. Next, are they highlighting their family time? Is it obvious that they care about their family and the time spent together? This is important because it is viewed as social proof that they are able to forge good relationships, even with their superiors. Do they have any postings related to their community service? If not, they should. Community service can be a big part of playing at the next level and coaches want to see that it’s important to their potential recruit. Next, are they highlighting their athletic successes? This can be tricky because too much comes off as bragging and conceited but none suggests there may not be much to post. Tread lightly with this. The best suggestion is to post sparingly but have your athlete include their Hudl or recruiting account in the bio area of their social media accounts.
Like it or not, the resume has been replaced by social media. One questionable post can negate a wildly successful resume in the blink of an eye. Truth is, college admissions departments employ full staff that do nothing but scour social media accounts of their applicants.
There is no changing the way our kids communicate with each other. What is important is that our young student-athletes use them to showcase their strengths. These social platforms are here to stay. They may morph in popularity, as new apps are developed, but the day of the phone call or written letter is gone…unless it’s to Grandma.