Social media and internet use is integrated in the lives of most children and young adults. Services such as Facebook and Google+ allow students to connect with friends and family, and post status updates and photos. For many young people, social media is a major part of their lives, with a recent study showing that more than half of children aged 12-13 and 88% of children aged 14-17 use social media. Parents can help their children by initiating discussions about the impact of social media activity, and how it can influence college admissions.
According to a recent study, at least a quarter of college admissions officers are using social media to conduct background research on applicants. While the practice is not yet routine, 12% of study participants said that “what they found ‘negatively impacted’ the applicant’s chances of admission.” Some college admissions officers cited examples of inappropriate behavior and plagiarism when explaining how social media can reveal negative impressions of an applicant.
Parents can address this issue by making sure their children are aware that their social media activities may be examined by college admissions officers, and that many things that children post online can be accessed in the public domain. Students can employ the positive strategy of using social media to project a more holistic picture of their thoughts and activities. Here are some examples of how students can use social media to bolster their college admissions plan:
- If your children are involved in volunteer work, they can post photos of their activities at a soup kitchen or tutoring center.
- If your children take AP or test prep courses, they can post updates that show how these classes are preparing them for college.
- Children can post updates related to their extra-curricular activities, such as sports, National Honor Society, student council, or clubs.
- If you children have jobs or internships, they can post about what they are learning from the experience.
As students become more active on social media sites, parents can review the principles of ethical online behavior with their children. Children can learn to delete posts, untag themselves from Facebook photos, and periodically check to ensure that their privacy settings are in line with family preferences. When children have a greater awareness of how their social media presence is viewed and used by others, they can be more thoughtful about how they choose to participate.