Kyle Kashuv, a well-known survivor of the 2017 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, recently made headlines when he took to Twitter and announced Harvard University had revoked his acceptance for the 2020 school year. In a lengthy thread, the teen explained exactly what preceded the letter from Harvard’s Dean of Admissions.
Screenshots of an exchange that took place in a shared Google Doc were posted by former classmates on Twitter in May. After reviewing the images, which included Kashuv using racial slurs to describe fellow classmates, the Massachusetts-based university decided to revoke his acceptance in early June.
Online reactions varied. Some supported Kashuv’s claims the life-changing experience of surviving a school shooting had changed him for the better. Others pointed out there were more deserving applicants available who didn’t have a history of racism. Throughout, one thing became clear: the things teens do online can have real life consequences.
Teens Today Have Larger Digital Footprints Than Ever Before
Every click, every post, every like and retweet is saved digitally, Regina Luttrell, Ph.D, assistant professor of public relations and social media at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, tells Parentology. “From the moment a person uses the internet, they begin to create what’s called their digital footprint,” she says. “This is any information surrounding a person that exists due to their online activity.”
Putting this even more in perspective, Luttrell says, “The younger a person is when they open a social media account the bigger their digital footprint is.” For teens today, who are considered digital natives, this can mean a larger footprint than any generation that has come before them.
Harvard Isn’t the Only One Looking Online
Kashuv isn’t the only student to have their online life affect them in the real world. According to Luttrell, Kaplan Test Prep found that 68 percent of admissions teams searched social media profiles of prospective applicants.
Teens today need to be cognizant of everything they post online, Luttrell says. “From photos to text messages, everything can be saved and shared by another person or to another person. What may seem fun today, could have life-changing ramifications.”
Understanding The Importance of Your Digital Presence
Meara McNitt, a social media strategist at Online Optimism, tells Parentology when it comes to teaching users of any age how to make good social media choices, she suggests they ask themselves two questions: “Would I be okay with my dream job finding this? If I became a famous athlete, would someone finding this ruin my career?”
McNitt says people should act like everything they have could be at stake before each post they make, because someday it very well may be. However, that doesn’t mean teens can’t have fun with the internet, they just need to remember that in the same way they may “instastalk” someone online, potential schools, employers and even friends will do the same to them.
“This applies [to] public accounts and [to] finstas/burner twitters,” McNitt says. “Even when posting under a secret handle, posts can and will make their way back to your actual name and have the potential to hurt relationships and opportunities.” Further illustrating how permanent and far-reaching activity on the internet can be.