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The Unwritten Rules of Social Media

Let’s face it: social media is a part of our everyday life whether we like it or not. Unfortunately, experts are telling us different things when it comes to how to use it effectively, when to use it, and which social media apps or websites are the best.

As someone who is (gasp!) almost 30, I was at the forefront when social media began to take over our lives. My introduction to the social media world was with Facebook during my freshman year at college. Facebook led to Twitter, which led to Pinterest, then Instagram – you see where I’m going with this. Whenever I post something on one of these platforms, my dad’s voice is in the back of my mind saying, “Don’t put anything on there that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see.” With his wise words in mind, I was and still am always sure to not post things on my accounts that schools/college admissions and/or current/future employers would not like to see.

Some may argue that sites such as Facebook and Instagram are just as much about the rush of scoring likes as it is sharing something creative with your friends. Rachel Simmons wrote an article for the New York Times entitled Why Your Kids Love Snapchat, and Why You Should Let Them. Snapchat, (for those unaware) is an app that lets its users share photos that will then disappear in a matter of seconds. Simmons argues that Snapchat vastly differs from Instagram because audience participation is minimal. No one is able to “like” your picture and there is no unwritten rule of reciprocity or mean comments that you have to worry about.

That brings me to my next topic, which could have (and has had) its own 100+ blog posts written about it, which is online bullying. Having worked at schools and camps, I have seen first-hand how cyber bullying has taken its toll on children. And of course, Snapchat isn’t foolproof. Simmons says that “like all social media, Snapchat can be used as a vehicle for cruelty, and FOMO, or the fear of missing out, still afflicts users.” You may still get a glimpse of an event or party that you weren’t invited to, but as one teen said, “you may feel excluded, but at least it disappears! You can’t sit there and look at it all night and feel bad.”

So there’s lots of things to remember when using different social media platforms, but here are just a few of ours:

  • Be careful what you post – remember what my dad said: don’t put anything on Facebook/Instagram etc. that you wouldn’t want your employer/school (or even grandmother!) to see.
  • Be mindful – you may have had a great birthday party with some friends, but there were people who weren’t invited, so be conscious when posting pictures. We tell this all the time to families who send their children to sleep-away camp. Don’t have a bunk reunion without one or two campers and then post a picture about it.
  • Don’t mention or tag people without their permission – when working at a summer camp, we tell counselors that they are not allowed to post anything with the camp’s name on it. This is to protect the privacy of camp families.
  • Don’t overshare – it’s nice to keep friends in the loop about what’s going on in your life (marriage, new baby etc.), but no one really wants to know every little detail of your life.
    Make sure your accounts are private – If you happen to let an inappropriate photo or post slip through the cracks, it is best that your account is on private so that not everyone can see.
  • Stay in touch – Social media is meant to be fun, and there are benefits such as keeping in contact with old friends, networking and even staying up to date with current events. Just remember to be safe and mindful.

Middle School: Life Lessons Learned at Camp

There was recently an article on the Joyful Parenting Coaching website that discussed the things that middle school aged children should be able to do on their own. Many of the things that the author, Elisabeth Sitt, mentioned were the basic life skills that go along with that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Parents nowadays are so used to holding their kids’ hands through every step of their lives, that when children go away from home for the first time, they are not prepared.

Sitt says that middle school aged students should be waking up, getting dressed and washing up on their own. When it comes time to breakfast and lunch, show your children how to make a healthy well-balanced meal instead of just doing it for them every day – remember, go back to the “teach a man to fish” motto!

Sitt goes on to talk about how children should do some cooking and cleaning, choose their own electives and extra-curricular activities, ask for help, and be able to handle money. I, and I’m probably not the only one, learned most of these skills at camp. Both of my parents worked full-time, and that’s not to say I did not learn valuable lessons from them, but when it came time to cooking, I had the Chinese and pizza delivery on speed dial.

Sure, my summers at camp were spent playing sports, water-skiing and hanging out with my friends, but it was also the time I learned to become independent and live without my parents for the first time. Starting when I was eight years old at camp, I learned how to make my bed with hospital corners, how to fold my clothing so that my cubby mirrored a shelf at GAP. I was able to pick my own electives – and for the seven years that I was a camper, I was able to pick activities that I loved, and not just ones that would look good on a college application.

If I was having a problem, or there was drama with friends, it was up to me to fix the situation or ask one of my counselors for help. I wasn’t able to have my mom intervene as she might have done if I was home. In addition, every week we went on trips out of camp. We were able to take out money from our “camper bank.” This was the first time I was forced to balance a bank account. If I was going to use up all my money on one trip, then I would have nothing left to take with me on our overnight trip to Boston.

Being at camp was fun, but it also meant responsibility to look after myself without my parents, becoming more self-sufficient and helped better prepare me for middle school, high school, college, and eventually the real world.

Advice for High School Seniors Applying to College

I recently read an article in the New York Times summarizing the colleges Malia Obama is likely applying to and her recent campus visits. Malia, a senior at Sidwell Friends School, is going through the same experience as many high school seniors. Even as the President’s daughter, she too is filling out college applications. The article made me reminiscent of the time that I applied to college, just six years ago and in the digital age. Here are some guidelines that I wish my peers and I knew in high school.

  • Submit your applications sooner than later: The application process has many steps and layers. You’ll feel relieved once your essays, scores and applications are sent out. Set a goal to submit all applications, even general regular decision applications, before the holiday season. You’ll want fewer assignments hanging over your head as you enter your second semester.
  • Rejection is a good thing: You are not flawed if you receive a rejection letter. For some, this might be the first time a student faces rejection. It’s hard, but it’s an important life experience. It makes you more resilient as you grow up and gives you thicker skin. It also means you took a risk with a certain school, and you won’t be wondering, “what if” you didn’t submit that application to that college.
  • Build your resume: A resume for college applications, or “brag sheet” is unique to traditional resumes. This is your opportunity to add all the extracurricular activities, nonprofit organizations, and especially summer experiences that pertain to your life, and distinguish who you as an applicant. The summer proves to be a pivotal time for students, so reflect on that as you document how you spent your time. Oftentimes insightful essays may result, as well. It always helps to share meaningful experiences on your applications!
  • Keep track of your usernames, passwords and IDs: This is something our parents aren’t thinking of. When they applied to college, they didn’t have to create usernames, password and 15 digit security codes. Not to mention each school has different requirements and case sensitive guidelines for passwords. Create ONE document that lists all your usernames & passwords. Ah, first world problems!
  • Don’t post admissions decisions on social media: If there’s one guideline you take away from this list, please let it be this one. Being accepted to a college is an exciting feeling, but don’t post it online. One of your friends or classmates could have been deferred or rejected from the same school, and posting your acceptance could upset them. Be kind and respectful, and tell your friends in person. After all, a congratulatory hug or high five feels better than “a like”.
  • Admissions outcomes do not correlate to college experiences: I’ll never forget about the girl who was accepted early decision to an elite university from my high school and then transferred the following year. And then another girl who only got into her “safety school” and had the time of her life. Your admissions decision will not determine your social life and your education. Making the most of your four years at college, will!

The college application process will have its inevitable highs and lows, even for Malia Obama. Remember it only reflects one part of your senior year, and there will be other experiences to look forward to. And as for Malia, might we predict she’ll follow in Chelsea Clinton’s steps and go to Stanford University? Go Cardinal! Or, did her summer internship open her eyes to the Big Apple for college?

Taking Summer Skills Into The New School Year

The new experiences, learning stages and growth from a child’s summer do not have to end once the seasons change. We believe the progress your child made over the last 8+ weeks can easily transition into your son or daughter’s classroom. Whether your child/teen was successful with communication skills, leadership lessons or from unplugging, you can set up your children for a successful school year by reminding them how successful they were just a few weeks ago.

Communication: Consider the times this summer when your child/teen was at camp and had to do an activity with a peer he/she wouldn’t ordinarily choose to do an activity. Little did your child know that they had to utilize communication skills that may not always come so easily to them? Maybe they were working together on a field or in an art room, maybe they were explaining something to a new counselor or new camper. Teenagers this summer were likely learning how to navigate new campuses and uncharted territories. They had to come together to determine where to go and how to get there. They maybe had to ask a native of the campus for city directions. These simple communication skills can easily be implemented into the classroom during group projects or assignments.

Leadership: Leadership is often juxtaposed with the image of the starting quarterback, but really, leadership is equally as powerful in the smaller roles and doses. When your child volunteered “to go first” when no one else would this summer, that’s a sign of leadership. Whether it be the first one to dive into the lake, the first one to climb the rock wall, or the first one to speak up in an organized seminar or debate, those are all signs of growth from your child’s summer. Remind your child that he or she should feel the same comfort in the classroom that they felt in the summer environment so that they can continue these leadership skills.

Unplug: When a summer program or camp sets strict technology boundaries and policies, it forces campers and teenagers to learn how to socialize and entertain themselves (again). Putting down the tablets and games over the summer is very healthy for social and emotional intelligence and development. Your child was able to get caught up in activities and hardly miss, or think about, the latest apps at home. This lesson of all three might be the most difficult one to overcome this school year, encouraging less use of their laptops and tablets.

By creating good habits these first few weeks of the daily routine of school, your child can become more engaged in academics and other kinds of projects, sports or activities.

The Final Chapter of Summer 2015

Tomorrow, desk and home decorative calendars will turn their pages to September 2015. Some may consider tomorrow’s date as the first day of Hogwarts, others may view tomorrow’s date as the official end of summer. Despite the anticipated high temperatures for Tuesday, our minds are geared to back to school, fall foliage and yes, pumpkin flavored treats.

In a fast paced society, we’re always thinking what lays ahead, what’s next. We seldom take the time to reflect. How can we mark the end to our summer 2015 chapter?

Some would argue that the summer ends when the campers and teens return home. But I disagree. You have to account for the camp “mourning” period, especially when the older boys and girls go into end-of-summer denial. How did it go by so quickly? How did I go from living in a bunk with my best friends to my lonely bedroom at home? I still consider these moments, and feelings, as a significant part of summer. Some could argue that the summer ends once you’ve unpacked. Gathering all of your clothes, matching missing socks with one another, doing an extra wash of sheets and towels to get rid of the “camping” smells. Everything’s put away so some could say it’s the end. But of course, I still disagree.

Our summer ends when school and “the real world” begin. Because that’s one of the greatest gifts of summer camp, living in a safe bubble which is disconnected from society (in a healthy way). Summer is the carefree season. It’s the season of celebration, warm weather, and reading for pleasure. It’s the season where it’s okay to forget. I feel because it’s my favorite season that it comes and goes in a blink of an eye. And here comes fall, knocking on our door and totally uninvited.

We can’t change the fast paced world in a day. But you can change your objective for this evening. Unwind your evening with some of your favorite memories. Recall the time when it was blissfully okay to forget what was happening in the local and global news. Write or call a friend and remind them how much they’ve affected your summer. Reflect on the times that you got caught up in the moments, and were oblivious to “the real world”.

I can’t lie about the fact that I’m excited that boot season, as well as football, is right around the corner. But I’ll wake up a little bit sad that August is no longer a part of my daily routine. I’ll still wear a dress tomorrow and act as though summer wasn’t taken away from me. I’ll just pretend I’m boarding the Hogwarts Express, while getting on the L train, and maybe for a moment September won’t be so bad after all.

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