Social Media Dos & Don’ts for Young Athletes & Their Parents

Social media can be a minefield for the parents of young athletes as well as the athletes themselves.

As a proud parent, you can turn off friends and families with endless posts and boasts about your child’s latest exploits on the field.

One of the quickest ways to annoy others is by posting a humblebrag about your child on Facebook.

“Our weekends are so busy because Johnny has been asked to play on two select teams and that is interfering with his ‘gifted” math classes he is taking at the local university. But, hey, the things we do for our kids.”

The term humblebrag was made famous by comedian Harris Wittels over five years ago when he began collecting comments like the one above on Twitter. He looked for posts that read self-deprecating but are actually boasts.

The Problem with Humblebragging

Washington Post writer Robert Ferdman explains why this is so annoying, “Indeed, the problem with humblebragging is two fold: it involves bragging, which no one likes, and it includes a feeble attempt to hide it. People easily notice this and consider it insincere.”

Bragging about our kids is a natural urge. After all, we should be proud of them! The lesson here is simply that if you are going to brag, then brag. Don’t be dishonest by wrapping it around a self-deprecating remark or complaining about an inconvenience.

A Harvard Business School research paper (yes, the topic has been studied at this level of academia) offered this advice, “The proliferation of humblebragging in social media and everyday life suggests that people believe it an effective self-promotional strategy. Yet, our results show, people readily denigrate humblebraggers. Faced with the choice to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former – and at least reap the rewards of seeming sincere.”

The research paper offered this humblebrag example, “Graduating from 2 universities means you get double the calls asking for money/donations. So pushy and annoying!”

The researcher explained, “Such instances of “humblebragging” allow actors to highlight positive qualities while attempting to appear humble by masking it in a complaint.”

Keeping it Real on Social Media: Dos & Don’ts

DO make posts about your child in moderation.

DON’T report every last detail about your child’s accomplishments.

DO mention your child’s effort or accomplishments from time-to-time.

DON’T make it about yourself – the doublebrag.

DO focus on the team and not always on your child.

DON’T criticize your kid, their coach, teammates or others on social media. It’s not the place.

DO converse with other parents about your team but consider tagging that circle of friends in your post if your message is not intended for a wider audience.

DON’T forget that some parents may be wary of mentioning their children by name or posting photos that are public.

DO remember to prop up others. It is good Karma and it shows you are concerned with others.

DON’T use your children as comedy props to entertain friends (“Coming home from soccer practice my daughter’s feet just stunk up the car”). Too much information.

Your Children’s Use of Social Media

Each year it seems that children are using social media at earlier ages. Kids have smart phones, tablets and other devices at young ages.

They move quickly through apps. Facebook isn’t even an option for them until they’re 13 years old. But they spend time, depending on their friends, on more visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Vine, as well as messaging apps like Burn Note and others.

You need to educate yourself and monitor your child’s social media use.

If your child is in high school, the school itself and possibly some of the athletic teams will have technology policies. More high school coaches are providing social media guidance to young athletes.

Social Media Can Bench Your Athlete

If you are fortunate to have a child who aspires to play collegiate sports, please realize that college coaches are now not just focusing on athletic skills and grades. Social media use is now prominently in the mix in determining which athletes to recruit.

Take, for example, this tweet from then Auburn Assistant Football Coach Herb Hand, who was then at Penn State, “Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence…glad got to see the ‘real’ person before we offered him (a scholarship).”

A simple lesson for your child: While it all seems very temporary and in the moment, everything they say on social media can be costly to their future. This even applies to things they don’t say directly (such as a retweet). If they can’t say it to you, they shouldn’t put it online.

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