Social Media and Teenage Stupidity


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As sympathetic as I try to be towards the tribulations of other parents, I have no problem admitting to a preference that  my “teachable moments” originate from consequences suffered by other people’s children.

This past week offered just such an opportunity, a conversation with the teenager initiated by the news that Harvard had rescinded offers to at least ten potential new students for the crime of sharing memes that the Admissions Committee deemed too offensive. They had been posted in a private Facebook group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” The university cited its right to withdraw offers “if an admitted student engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, morality, or moral character.”

I won’t share the memes here, but if you want to find them it’s not difficult. They’re pretty bad.

They’re pretty bad but to be honest, I’ve seen worse. They’re jokes. Horribly offensive ones that aren’t particularly funny, meant to shock and push back against political correctness.  They are purposefully cringe worthy, competitions  common where people vote on which are the most “dank”. I’m sure that it never crossed any of these kid’s minds that these actions could be considered bad enough to lose the right to attend a school that only accepted 5.2 % of applicants to the class of 2021.

It’s an important lesson, online presence something that more and more employers and universities are paying attention to. Whether fair or not, opinions about a person are being formed by what they post and share on social media. I asked the teenager who she would be more willing to hire if two applicants had similar qualifications, the one that posts pictures of her dog on Instagram or the one tweeting about how wasted they got the night before?

As important as it is for teens to use a little more common sense before hitting the “send’ button,  it’s equally important for those doing the judging to use it. Teenagers can be incredibly stupid and naive. It was true when I was one, when you were one, and when my youngest gets to be that age I have no doubt that she will have me shaking my head in consternation often.  What the people at Harvard missed was that these memes were being shared precisely because they were considered offensive. This is evidence of poor judgement but also shows that they are not indicative of the true feelings of the posters.

It’s a hard balance to find, as with all aspects of raising teenagers. Accountability must be taught but they also need to be allowed to make mistakes, to learn from them. Very few of us get to be be responsible adults without first spending time as stupid kids, doing stupid things.

Things become even more problematic when stupid adults try and legislate stupid teen behavior. With the intention of fighting child pornography, a laudable idea, the US House of Representatives has voted to mandate a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence for anybody who shares sexually explicit photos of a minor.

Besides being against the idea of mandatory sentencing in general, I’m also unable to comprehend how it never occurred to any of these brilliant lawmakers that the law as currently written doesn’t exclude minors, the very people it is intended to protect.

That means a young girl who sends a picture of her boobs to her high school boyfriend could go to jail for fifteen years. If that boyfriend asks for a picture that is solicitation, fifteen years. If one of the boyfriend’s buddies told him to ask for the picture that’s conspiracy, fifteen years in federal jail.

Teenagers need to be talked to, constantly. They need to realize the consequences of their online actions and be taught to use as much common sense as we can instill. We need to use a little sometimes too.





My Random Musings


After the Playground

16 thoughts on “Social Media and Teenage Stupidity”

  1. The issue is very urgent nowadays, I agree. Teens have more freedom now than they did two decades before. Internet and thechnologies develop so much quickly and teens want to always follow them that very often they just go crazy. We, parents, should just spend much time with kids, talk to them a lot and then they won’t have unnecessary thoughts in their minds. I guess such their behavior is the sign that they are alone, they miss communication and attention, and they just don’t know how to express this desire. Anyway, we, parets, are to blame. Many thank you for the topic.

    1. I’m hopeful that the next group of kids, having known it all their lives, will have an easier time. There is probably something else yet to be developed that will drive us crazy instead though

  2. I can’t imagine being a teenager in today’s social media world! The antics me and my crew used to pull back when we were stupid teenagers would probably have me wearing a federal ID number in Leavenworth!

  3. OMG what I got up to as a teen….😉 I would not like any of those “exploits” to surface but of course, they won’t because I was a teen in the 80’s so no social media (and very few cameras). It was deny, deny, deny and then deny some more. Nothing illegal but just stupid teen things and that’s the point isn’t it? I was a normal, stupid teenagers learning to navigate the world by being influenced by other, stupid teens. I’m a teacher now so am pretty sensible (🤔) we grow, we change and we move onto adulthood. Great post. Poor teens……(my own kids are teens and they never had it so good!)#anythinggoes

  4. My 15 year old now has Snapchat, after not being particularly interested in the social aspect of the internet until now. To say I’m hardly swinging from the trees with excitement is an understatement. I’m glad he’s fairly sensible, but like you said – teens do stupid things, its pretty much part of being a teen. And I think because I did a lot of very poorly-judged things as a teen, it makes me all the more aware how even the smartest of kids can be a total moron if carried away in the company of other morons… We can only guide them, and hope that their actions don’t come back to haunt them.

    1. Snapchat gave us a lot of problems a few years ago. Not because of anything she was doing, it was before all the funny filters and such and we didn’t see any reason for her to have it. It was one of just a handful of sites we told her to stay off of, which of course meant that she would just attempt to do it behind our back.

  5. I regularly thank my lucky stars that I’m not a teenager of today. I’d hate it. With social media, there is that added pressure. I dread to think what it will be like when my Little Man is of that age. #anythinggoes

    1. I’d bet that we can’t even imagine. I know Facebook was around, but who would have predicted ten years ago just how much influence social media now has on the world?

  6. Oh Jeremy this is a harsh reminder of the negative side of social media and as you say a useful marker for conversations with your daughter. Both my teens know of fellow pupils who have suffered as a result of social media exploits, the worst being the sharing of nude pictures which has effectively ruined a young man’s life. My husband is also very quick to remind our eldest that social media checks are par for the course now even for those seeking work experience. They can never be reminded too often of the risks. Great post. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. its so hard to reinforce how important these things are for them to consider. I can completely understand the tendency to not understand why some of this stuff is a “big deal”, but it really is

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