Social Media and Working Teens

This generation has always known social media.  Likely, their own pictures were posted on Myspace after delivery and by the time they were school aged, their parents were uploading almost instantly the newly minted ballet shoes or the off-key adorable school choir show to Facebook. They watched as we posted our experiences and responded to our friends’ joy and sorrow, alike. 

These same kids are now working. They are also the same kids that have likely already been posting on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to their heart’s desire, with minimal filtering. Social media to them is as casual as a conversation with a friend. So it is up to us, their parents, to chat about adding this new dimension (work) into their worldview and how that may alter their actions (posting whatever they are feeling in that moment).

Since your new worker will likely be in a job that is teen-friendly (think clothing stores, restaurants, sports arenas, pools, etc), it will be easy and natural to want to take pictures at work, chat about work, post about work. This is what they have done in every other facet of their lives. What they may not recognize is what is acceptable for other moments, may not be for work, and actually could end up costing them a job.

It is a quick google search to see the common fouls of social media: the person who calls off for “sickness” and later posts pictures of his canoe trip, the claim of a “funeral” to turn around and ask who is wanting to chill on her day off.  This is the equivalent of real-life calling off for your waitress job and then showing up to eat there that night. 

Likely there is a social media policy at your teen’s new job and if there isn’t, there will be soon.  What he/she may not know is that what they post can have an adverse action on their job and they may not understand the limits they have now that they are an employee. What they posted freely as their opinion before, now could be seen in a different light.

Another hot topic is the happenings at work. Say your child works in a restaurant and a person chokes on her food.  Because of a babysitting class, your daughter knows what to do and instantly goes into abdominal thrusts and dislodges the object. Naturally, they will want to tell their friends but what was a phone call or even a text in the past now is shared with their closest 800 friends. What they may not realize is that sharing information about situations at work, especially ones that may have to do with someone’s health, may be against company policy. 

More seriously is when something goes wrong at work – they are late because of unforeseen situations, they feel their manager is being unfair or the customer service part just doesn’t play out to plan that day. I highly doubt there is one person who has held a job that has not had that day when they question, “Is this worth it?” What is harder for the teenager who has used Twitter as her way to word vomit on bad days now cannot do the same. (There is actually a teenager in Texas that was fired before starting her job because of the defamatory tweet regarding her future job.) 

Drinking, drugs, and parties do not fall far from the same realm. Say your child works at a youth camp and they post a picture of them shotgunning a beer at a frat party, the camp may say the image of your child is not in line with what the camp stands for and may cause harm on their reputation. What perhaps was just a fun night may now hinder the future.

Although it may seem like fun and hanging out, if it can cause the reputation of the company to be damaged, they may not be able to post it.  Many companies even have the right to request a post be taken down.  Some request passwords. Even if a profile is private, if friends can see their posts, then their friends can take a screenshot and send to HR.

If you have a working teenager, it is worth it to go over these working-world social media guidelines.  You just may save them from an unnecessary life lesson.

Some basic social media guidelines are below:

  • Your teen should know that their posts and images could affect the company’s image.
  • The employer may observe information that is posted online by employees.
  • What your teen’s posts may be available for a long time and have an adverse effect on their job.
  • Most policies will prohibit social media conduct that is defamatory or inappropriate, as well as hateful in nature.
  • Your teen should know what the policy is if they are contacted by press in regards to a post that can relate to their job.
  • Often they must post that their opinion is not the opinion of the company they work for (for example, commenting on the “best shoe” if they work for a shoe store).
  • Be wary of when they are posting (work time versus non-work time); however, even posts made after work could result in disciplinary action.

I hope this helps steer your working teen in the right direction!

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