Athletes and Social Media

Athletes and Social Media - Lessons From The Sidelines

Have you read any of the stories surrounding the NBA and social media? In many ways, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that basketball players are finding themselves hooked to Instagram and Facebook. But then again, when someone is earning millions of dollars doing anything doesn’t it seem odd that they would suffer from FOMO due to social media shout outs?

I think it’s safe to say that we all understand how harmful some aspects of social media are these days. Whether it’s the studies on increased stress, the jury who conviced the girl who encouraged her “friend” to kill himself, or the school policies that now include online bullying, it’s not all great.

Setting all that aside, take a minute and scroll through Twitter. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

Ok, so now that we all agree there is a lot of cruel stuff out there on social, it makes sense that even NBA stars making millions of dollars would find themselves battling the harsh psychological aspects of social media.

Here’s the thing, how much harder is it for our high school and college athletes to handle criticism on social media?

After a tough loss the last thing a child, a student under the age of 18, needs to see is a barrage of shaming commentary criticizing them for being imperfect.

It is hard enough to receive correction from a teammate or coach. But to also have strangers feel the freedom to add their two cents (usually incorrectly) is not only unnecessary, but often harmful.

At the college level athletes are adults in the eyes of the law (barely) but with the pressures of college I ask again, is it reasonable to expect that student-athletes should handle the criticisms on social media better than that of NBA players?

What Can We Do to Support Our Athletes on Social Media?

Obviously we can’t drown out all the negativity. But there are several things we can do to help reduce the impact.

  • Don’t be afraid to report an especially aggressive harasser. While each social platform is slightly different, when a minor is involved they are quick to suspend an account.
  • Highlight the positives. Cheer on good grades, community service, hard work, amazing teamwork, and of course wins.
  • Make sure to tell kids in person how proud you are of them as well. Looking someone in the eye and making sure it sinks in will go a long way.
  • Make sure there is a team social media policy for students and parents. Post reminders as needed through the season.
  • Since it’s unlikely you will be able to keep athletes off social, remind them that cowards say things on social media instead of straight to someone’s face.
  • Focus on people trying to use their public profile for positive change. There is a reason why Stephen Curry received a lot of attention for his interactions with Riley Morrison
  • Teach your children to be wise discerners of the content they consume. Instead of listening to a short snippet of content help them to understand the importance of taking the time to research the true CONTEXT of the content BEFORE they share anything.

Setting Social Boundaries

As parents, we have a little more leverage over our student-athletes. The wrong posts could cost a student scholarship money at some colleges. Taking the time to have a clear conversation about what is appropriate to post and what should stay off of social media is important.

It’s also a great idea to make sure all accounts are private and settings prevent strangers from commenting or tagging your child.

While it may be tempting to also comment on your child’s behalf, I promise you this will go no where. Unless it is to remind an adult that they are harrasing a child, it’s better to just stay silent.

Ultimately, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are signs of Generation Z stepping away from the platforms, but for now, it’s important we recognize that if millionaire NBA stars are struggling with social media, it’s likely younger athletes are too.

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