Kids Need to Understand That They Are a Brand

Dear Mrs. McVeigh,
My friend and I have 8th graders, and were reminiscing about their classmates that we have known since Kindergarten. As we were looking at various kids on Instagram, we noticed that all of the girls have pictures of themselves posing in bathing suits, and other outfits with inappropriate poses. What is your opinion of this? Even if you set aside what some may consider my “prudish” feelings about this, what about how many pedophiles are out there, looking at all of these sweet girls’ pictures. Are my friend and I just “not with it,” or are we right to worry?

Dear MM,
I do not think you are being a prude. What young people will not seem to believe is that pictures on the Internet follow them forever. Young people (and adults) need to think before they pose for a picture, let alone post it on social media accounts. Students need to start thinking about how they will be perceived by a photo when trying to get into a club or organization in college, and then by a potential employer.

When I speak to High School and College students, I tell them that everyone is a brand. They need to define their brand as a person, and start posting pictures that are consistent with that image. For example, I teach young children manners. I try to avoid having any pictures with alcohol on my work social media. (The exception is an etiquette dinner for adults that includes wine.) My opinion is alcohol is fine to drink if you are of age, but parents do not want to see their child’s etiquette teacher out drinking and partying. These are the lessons that parents need to explain to their teenagers about their social media pictures and posts. Branding is something that speaks to teens.