Teens, Social Media and Harvard: It’s Time to Stop Throwing Stones

How many of us tell our kids to be mindful about their social media presence? We warn our children because we worry that colleges or employers will see something on our child’s page that reflects badly on them. How often have I heard parents admonish their young adults to keep their Facebook pages, “clean?” Well, this week Harvard University revoked the admissions offers of at least ten students from the class of 2021 because of what the University saw online.

Harvard university revoked admissions letters for social media infractions.

According to the Harvard Crimson, in early December 2016 about 100 members of the class of 2021 set up a messaging group to exchange memes about “popular culture.” It is alleged that in later that month, a group of prospective students splintered from that initial group and set up a second messaging group which was at one point entitled, “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” A student who was in the initial messaging group told the Crimson that to be included in the second chat group, a student was required to post “provocative memes” in the larger group.

[Read Next: The Talk We Need to Have With Our Teens About Social Media]

That splinter group’s content included posts that mocked sexual assault and the Holocaust, along with other racist and highly offensive content. In mid-April, Harvard University gave the students an opportunity to explain why they had posted the inappropriate material and subsequently rescinded offers of admission for ten students. Harvard says the decisions regarding those students is final.

I think the most surprising thing about this story is not that it happened but the vitriol, or better yet, the glee with which the story was greeted. My first reaction upon reading the story was to cringe and hope that my kids don’t do anything that stupid. But, other readers were quick to play judge, jury and executioner. Many averred that, “children raised correctly” would never post such things. Lots of others, felt that the spurned students deserved what they got, and then some. Among the many harsh and unsympathetic reactions was one that implied that if you don’t raise your child to be a “racist asshole,” you need not worry about this scenario. Really? Others without even knowing the exact nature of the content posted, were in a hurry not only to rescind offers of admission, but to charge the students with “hate crimes.” Still others congratulated themselves for being absolutely certain that THEIR kids would never post this sort of material on social media. Again, really?

As the mother of three teenagers and young adults I have seen how absolutely moronic 17/18 year olds can be. It is well-known that the brain is not fully developed until a person reaches their mid-twenties and teenagers are notorious for lacking judgment, something we all hope changes as they mature. In addition, the herd mentality among this age group has them forever one upping each other in everything, including stupidity.

I’m not saying that the students should not have been disciplined. I’m not saying that these kids belong or “deserve” to be at Harvard with their appalling lack of judgment. I don’t know all the facts but I am comfortable that those who do made the right call.

I just wonder if we, as a community, need to be so sanctimonious, so judgmental and so quick, nay, so eager to shatter our neighbor’s glass house with our neatly thrown stones?

Photo credit: DaytripperUniversity


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About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

More by Helene Wingens:

What Every Mom Needs to Teach Her Son About Rape
6 Reasons Why Moms Cry When They Leave Their Kids at College
Dear Parent Freshman, You Need to Know This About Your Student
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What Moms of Grown Sons Want Them to Know

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