What Kids Can Learn from Shia, Kanye, Miley, and Justin Bieber

Four life lessons from social media's biggest blunders.
Four life lessons from social media's biggest blunders.

By Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media parenting editor

You know that moment when your kids are learning something new -- crossing the street, say, or riding a bike -- and you see it go terribly wrong? Maybe the light changes, or their wheel turns the wrong way. Your brain goes into slow motion and you envision yourself flying through the air, arms flailing, yelling, "NOOOOOOOOO."

It's the same with kids and social media. They may not be new to technology, but -- because they're kids -- they can't foresee how things could go wrong. They can't fathom that their oh-so-hilarious tweet might offend, that they'd get caught plagiarizing, or a friend might betray them by sharing a private photo. And this time, you're not there.

To the rescue: celebrity's social media mistakes, which provide ready-made cautionary tales pretty much on the daily. When Shia LaBeouf takes to Twitter, you can almost see his handlers flying through the air, arms flailing, shouting, "NOOOOOOOOO!" Unfortunately for many stars, the lessons come too late. But it's not too late for your kids to learn from their examples of what not to do.

Don't pagiarize.
And not just that: don't plagiarize your apology…and then mock the person whose work you copied, a la Shia LaBeouf. In today's world, everything can be copied, pasted, and posted publicly, and sometimes the rules about what's OK to use and what's not seem blurry. Learn how to respect creative work.

Don't fight publicly. Sinead O'Connor and Miley Cyrus' public social-media feud may have started a conversation about how women are portrayed in the media. But it played into negative stereotypes about how females handle disputes (cattily). Sure, it's easier to dash off a comment to someone you'd rather not speak to, but digital communication can easily be misunderstood. Keep public discourse respectful, and know when you need to bite the bullet and call the person to talk it out.

Think before you tweet, so you don't have to delete. Kanye West's public rants -- and subsequent remorse -- make you think Twitter invented the delete key just for him. It only takes a few Kanye-style public flip-flops for kids to suffer real humiliation. Train them to pause before they post and think about how their words -- or photos, or videos -- could be perceived. The golden rule: If you're in doubt, don't do it.

Stop uploading sexy selfies (we're talking to you, Justin Bieber). Sexy selfies on Instagram and other photo-sharing sites are rampant among kids. And Justin Bieber is the poster child. When his cell phone recently was confiscated in a raid on his home, it was reported that he was more afraid of his sexy photos leaking than of getting arrested. Sharing sexy selfies is a real risk to kids' safety but also to their self-esteem, which may be tied to how many likes they get on social sites. Don't want to end up like Justin Bieber? Keep your privates private.

About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to:www.commonsense.org.