6 Ways Teens are Keeping Their Online Communities Positive

Every social network has the ability to teach and spread digital citizenship to its users. How a company manages its community guidelines will determine if the impact it has on digital citizenship is positive or negative.

At After School, a teen-focused network, we take a proactive approach to moderation and have a strict Zero Tolerance Policy against cyberbullying and threats that bolsters our visible Community Guidelines. We believe that the more we do to encourage positive activities and limit harmful posts, the better our networks will be. With that in mind, we recently asked three young digital citizens, “How do you and your friends make sure your online communities stay positive?”

We compiled their responses and came up with six concrete ways teens can help keep their online communities positive:

  • Report Harmful Posts: “Report any harassing or hate speech, even if it is not directed at you specifically. Sometimes, the people who are being targeted are too scared of repercussions to speak up for themselves, so they need their community to help. By reporting these types of comments as soon as you see them, you are maintaining a safe online environment,” says Paula Orrego.

All Social networks have different policies and procedures and most require a user to take several steps before removing a post. After School removes reported posts immediately. Regardless of their differences, most companies take reports seriously. By reporting a post, you’re letting the company know that you are voting against this type of behavior and sticking up for those who are being bullied or made fun of in a post.

  • Assume it Lives Forever: “Remember that your posts leave a digital footprint, so you want make sure that it is something that you are comfortable having everyone read now or in the future,” says 14-year-old Max Surprenant.

Even private posts and messages can be made public. Colleges, employers, and others often check social media posts. If you always assume that anyone could end up seeing your posts, your posts are less likely to come back to hurt you in the future.

  • Keep it Positive: There’s a big difference between venting to get things off your chest, and being mean. You might not always feel happy, but that’s not a reason to post something that could have a negative impact on another person or your online community.  

“Make sure to only post uplifting pictures, posts, comments,” says Dana Ran. Keep in mind that there are people on the other side of your phone screen, and they may also be going through tough times. Find ways to cheer them up and support them.

  • Protect Personal Information: Some things are better kept private. “In order to stay safe online, never, ever give out your personal information. It's okay to say "no" if you feel uncomfortable sharing any information about yourself--you don't owe anybody anything,” says Paula.  

  • Curate Your Network: There is a famous saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with in our lives. This concept applies to those we spend our time with online too. “Delete or unfriend any people who are constantly posting negatively,” says Dana. By keeping your networks positive and removing those who aren’t friendly, you’re curating your network, helping to keep your communities positive, and making yourself a better person.

  • Represent Your Best Self: It can be easy to act differently when we’re on a phone or behind a computer instead of interacting with someone face-to-face. “Be real, and make sure that how you are online represents how you are offline,” says Max. Paula adds that you should, “Think about what you are doing before posting. Don't be heartless. You don't know what someone may be going through, and by cyberbullying, you become part of what is bringing someone down instead of being a positive influence in their life.”

So remember: keep your online networks safe and positive, report harmful posts, assume what you post will live forever, keep it positive, protect personal information, curate your network, and always represent your best self.

We’d like to thank Dana Ran, Maxwell Surprenant, and Paula Orrego for contributing to this article and for being model digital citizens for their peers. To learn more about what After School is doing to protect users from cyberbullying and encourage positive online behaviors in teens, visit the After School Safety Center.