Trump’s Twitter: What’s a Parent to Do?

Julie Fisher
  • Julie Fisher
  • February 1, 2017
Trump's Twitter

Trump’s Twitter: What’s a Parent to Do?

I’m not going to talk about whether I like or dislike President Trump, be it the man, his politics or his policies.

I am an educator. I spend my days and evenings educating students and parents about social media and the impact your social media posts can have on your future.

I am also a parent. I have spent the last 21 years raising my daughters to respect and be empathetic towards others, regardless of where they come from, what they look like or what they believe.

I believe that we should expect our President, the leader of the free world, to be a role model for our children. It is because he is President that he  should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, especially when it comes to his public behavior.  That said, when it comes to Donald Trump’s Twitter, I’m at a loss to explain what’s going on to my children and the thousands of children I work with on digital citizenship every year.

I watched President Trump’s Twitter account during the time leading up to the election, during the election and during the transition after he was elected and hoped with all my heart that once the inauguration was over, we would have a President whose social media activity was admirable and befitting the office he was elected to.

It’s hard enough to teach children, teens and college students how to appropriately use social media so that what they post won’t harm their future. When our President’s Twitter practices run contrary to agreed-on best practices for using social media, it makes my job and the job of parents all over this country much more difficult. How can we teach our children to be behave online when the leader of the free world doesn’t and gets away with it?

President Trump’s Twitter behavior is especially troubling given that his wife, Melania Trump, our First Lady, in a speech in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, said:

Technology has changed our universe. But like anything that is powerful it can have a bad side. We have seen this already. As adults, many of us are able to handle mean words — even lies. Children and teenagers can be fragile. They hurt when they are made fun of or made to feel less in looks or intelligence. This makes their life hard and forces them to hide and retreat. Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough especially to children and to teenagers.

It’s not my place to get into someone else’s marriage but I know without a doubt that my husband would not publicly disrespect me and behave in such was way that goes against an issue about which I care deeply. We’d be shocked (and many would be mortified) if a First Lady spoke out publicly against her husband’s known policies – shouldn’t we at least be shocked to some degree that it’s happening in the reverse?

When I speak, whether it’s to parents or students, I always talk about seven rules I believe we, as an educated, respectful and caring society, need to abide by when it comes to social media use.

Unfortunately, President Trump ignores these rules. If he isn’t going to practice upstanding digital citizenship, it’s hard to explain to young people why they should. Look below at my rules and then at various tweets from our President (both during his presidency and before he took office) and I think you’ll understand the struggle I face as an educator and parent when I try to find a way to explain that our children should not follow the President’s example:

1. Be you. I always advocate for authenticity online albeit authenticity viewed through multiple lenses since we never know who will ultimately see our posts. While our new President certainly is authentic online to who he is, he has a hard time letting his character shine. Instead of being positive and looking for the “good”, he often does the opposite.

While the President might feel that Chelsea Manning is a traitor, and ungrateful to President Obama, there is no upside to tweeting it. Every opinion we have doesn’t need to be shared.

2. Take out the trash. Nobody likes a potty-mouth. I advise students that posts with profanity or overwhelming negativity reflect poorly on their character.

While this tweet doesn’t contain swearing, it is profane and comparing our country’s patriotic intelligence communities to Nazis is never acceptable.

While this tweet was posted well before the election, it still serves as an example of how someone who would be President should not behave online

3. Practice the 2-second rule. This is a reminder to think before you post. I often ask students to look at their posts through the lenses of others before they put their content online for the world to see. Would they be okay if their parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, clergy, a police officer or judge, the admissions officer at the college they really want to go to or their future employer saw the post? My recommendation is that if they can’t say “yes, I’d be happy if all those people saw what I posted,” then they shouldn’t publish the post.

The “haters and losers” thing seems to be a favorite phrase. I think most parents, grandparents, teachers and clergy would tell you that this kind of language just isn’t nice – remember the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

4. What’s in that red Solo cup? Perception is reality and I always tell students that it’s unlikely that anyone is going to call you up to ask you if the cup you were holding at the party in the picture you posted contained beer or water. We often forget that people judge us based on what they see online and form opinions about us that may not be based on reality. As a result, we have to examine images before we post them and think about how they might be misconstrued.

Trump's Twitter

Even though this tweet many deemed offensive was deleted from his Twitter account and the 6 pointed star (which looks an awful lot like Jewish star) was replaced in the updated tweet with a circle, the original still lives online.

5. Live by the Golden Rule. Everyone should treat others online how they’d like to be treated. Be nice and never bully.

What purpose does it serve to call Senator Schumer a clown? Name-calling is just childish.

What’s to gain with a post like this? The only thing this post shows is nastiness.

6. What goes on Instagram…stays on Instagram. We’ve all made mistakes at one time or another and posted things we wished we hadn’t. While you can delete posts from the site where you posted them, you will never know who saved those posts to their own devices or be able to control what they do with your posts in the future.

Trump's Twitter

This hastily written post contained incorrect information and was deleted nearly an hour after it was posted but still available online.

7. They are watching. Something I think students often forget is that many people (especially adult decision-makers) check social media. While it might be a fun place to play, it’s not a playground.

I think all I need to say here is “why?”. This illustrates an inability to rise above and show the world that you’re going to take the high road instead of the teaching our kids that when someone verbally attacks, you should attack right back.

I, like many other parents and educators wish that our President would get off Twitter and model upstanding online behavior, if not for himself and his legacy as President, then at least for the sake of our children. It’s hard to teach kids to follow social media rules when they see their President ignore the rules without experiencing consequences for his behavior.

Julie Fisher, M.Ed., is the founder of The Social U and the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Building Better Families through Action. She taught high school history, economics and government before changing her focus to educate parents and students of all ages about preventing risky behavior online with a focus on how social media behavior can affect college admissions and internship/job opportunities.  Follow The Social U on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and get your Free Social GPA today.

The featured image of this post is a derivative of “Donald Trump”by Gage Skidmore used under CC.

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