In the online teen world the ‘Like Button’ is synonomous with acceptance and it goes without saying that acceptance is the ultimate accolade at this age. One of my students told me that once she has posted a picture of herself on Facebook or Instagram she finds her self addicted to checking how many ‘Likes’ she has got. She checks her Facebook in the middle of the night, when she’s in the shower, at breakfast, on the bus, every recess – constantly. ‘It would break my heart if I got under 100 Likes’, she said!
The Facebook ‘Like Button’ is now part of our language. If you post a picture or write a comment on Facebook a little ‘Like Button’ appears that your ‘friends’ can click. The number of clicks are recorded and a running total is kept. As well the name of the ‘Liker is also posted.
I realised I had been drawn into this culture when my 14 year old niece posted a gorgeous picture of herself on Facebook. I admired it and clicked the little ‘Like’ button underneath it. I wanted her to know how pretty her Aunty thought she looked. Sounds harmless doesn’t it. Over the week, the number of ‘Likes’ grew to 456. This should be a good news story. People being nice on Facebook! But what if no one had ‘Liked’ her photo or worse if just her Aunty had clicked ‘Like’? This is the silent hate of the teen world. The ‘Like Button’ can and is being used for Hate. Imagine the girl who posts an inappropriate photo of her ‘friend’ on Facebook and sits back and watches the ‘Likes’ build up.
In New York a reporter tells a story about her 10 year old brother. His ‘friend’ posted his picture on Facebook followed by the comment: Click Like if you Hate Harry. By the time he got to school the next morning, 57 children in his primary school had clicked ‘Like’. How horrifying! How does Harry come back from this? How do his parents and school manage it? What you may well ask is Harry or the ‘friend ‘ doing on Facebook at under 13?
There are other examples of the danger of the ‘Like Button’. The art of thinking ahead is not a teen’s strong suit. They will often click the ‘Like Button’ with barely a thought. There are dozens of ‘Hate Groups’ on Facebook; Racist, homphobic, mysognist, celebrity haters – they are all out there and teens can, without thinking click the ‘Like Button’. In doing this they leave a digital footprint for others to judge them on; particularly potential employers.
Facebook, or what ever Social Media site comes after it is here to stay. Our role as adults is to establish boundaries, create limits, teach, counsel, guide, watch over, and model. Are you actively involved in your child’s internet life? You must be!