Social Media Boot Camp: Preparing the Next Generation for a Digital World

I’ve presented my Social Media Boot Camp more than 100 times since 2018. I started it because I saw a void in what not only young people were learning — or not learning — but also what high schoolers, college students, athletes, and professionals never learned. Many of us parents were thrust into the wild world of social media in the early 2000s with no playbook, and it’s been full speed ahead since. There are 8 billion people in the world, and 4.9 billion use social media!

My belief is that you have to reach children in middle school when they are first experimenting with social media. If they don’t have a proper foundation laid during those years, they could make mistakes that might cost them dearly later in life. “Make smart decisions on social media, kids,” we say. But how, exactly, do we expect them to do that? We’re asking them to think like adults and make adult decisions when their minds aren’t yet capable. It’s the perfect Catch-22. Without guidance, they inevitably make mistakes that could haunt them when they apply to high schools, colleges, or even look for their first jobs. Sound extreme? It is, but it’s real. I’ve heard first-hand accounts of so many costly errors over the years that were 100% avoidable. What seems like a great idea in the moment may not be so great one second later, after it is posted on social media. Teens (and adults) have to think about what’s next.

Many parents are clueless, so they just let their kids get on social media because they are tired of saying no. The parents can barely navigate social media themselves, and the kids know much more than they ever will, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use it responsibly. Every school I’ve visited has dealt with suspensions or expulsions because of social media misuse. Every one.

I’ve presented to audiences from 4th grade to the New Orleans Pelicans, and the learning never ends. There is always a new platform or controversy to navigate, whether it’s ridiculous (and sometimes dangerous) TikTok challenges, drug overdoses from pills purchased on Snapchat, Finsta accounts (the fake Instagram that parents see), or cyberbullying, which is a real issue in middle and high school.

Social Media Boot Camp also touches on the digital footprint, real-life examples of big social media blunders, online gaming, live streaming, how closely colleges and potential employers look at the image students are portraying online, other social media pitfalls, and social media smarts. It’s a useful tool that I know makes a difference. One parent recently told me that her sixth grade daughter was ok waiting longer to get a cell phone after seeing the presentation. A principal said the cyberbullying message really resonated. A student said that she now knows once something is out there, you can’t take it back.

The social media world gets more complicated by the day, and it’s up to us to make sure that not only our children are prepared, but we are as well.