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Regional business leaders receive lesson in social media

The purpose of the Junior Achievement program in schools is to inspire young people to achieve in a global economy, to teach them how to have their own economic success.

But at a recent luncheon sponsored by Junior Achievement and the Catawba Regional Education Center it was the students’ mentors – the business leaders of York, Chester and Lancaster counties – who were the learners.

The luncheon topic was “Ethics in Social Media.” Students enrolled in business classes at the Chester County Career Center, the Richard Winn Academy in Winnsboro, Rock Hill High School and York Comprehensive High School came prepared to discuss their social media habits and opinions. They were given the questions in advance to help them prepare for the luncheon.

At 12 tables scattered in the banquet room of the Baxter Hood Center, they candidly talked to the business leaders.

“The honesty at the table was scary,” said Al Reid, manager of the PPG Industries fiberglass plant in Chester.

The teens revealed:

Scared-straight campaigns designed to stop teens from texting and driving don’t work. It would be rude, teens said, not to immediately respond to a text. “Driving is boring to them,” Reid said. “They are compelled to stimulate.”

They are ambivalent when it comes to privacy in social media. Some said they would have no problem giving a potential employer their Facebook password, allowing them to view their pages as a condition of employment. Others said their private lives should be separate from their work.

A few said it depended on what privacy settings a person had selected on Facebook. If a page was open to everyone, there is no expectation of privacy. If it is restricted, then there is the expectation of privacy.

Whether entertainers or sports stars are truthful in the products the tweet about doesn’t matter, some students said. It’s up to the person who follows the celebrity to determine the truthfulness, they said. When it comes to news, some said they’ll believe an account is true if they find it on Google or Yahoo.

For the business leaders, one of the biggest lessons learned was that the social contract between teens has not changed since, well, they were teens.

Even though you might see a person every minute of the school day, you still need to talk with them when you get home.

If the girl, or guy, you’re interested in calls, you respond immediately.

And teens, regardless of their generation, have that feeling of invincibility. Bad things won’t happen to them.

But in the age of instant communications, the risks are greater, said the business leaders.

Todd Wallace of Founders Credit Union said he has had “the talk” with his teenage children about Facebook and other social media sites. “Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back,” he said.

Jason Broadwater of RevenFlo and the event’s featured speaker, and financial advisor Chip Hutchinson said the personality teens display on social media reflects the way they are in person.

“Social media is an extension of social behavior,” Broadwater said. Therefore, he said, it can be appropriate to review social media sites to determine the suitability of a prospective employer.

Hutchinson said teens are more direct in social media, something many parents are not comfortable with. Teens “real personality comes out in the social world, it’s who they are,” he said. To monitor his teenager – and the friends of his teenager – Hutchinson acknowledges: “I’m a Facebook lurker.”

And his child knows it. He discusses the image his child portrays on the popular social media site.

Broadwater’s advice to anyone using social media is to remember that it’s all about relationships. “Real people want real, authentic content,” he said. “If you don’t have anything interesting to post, don’t.”

Rick Jiran of Duke Energy said the discussion made him a better parent. After the luncheon he went home and talked with, not to, his teen daughter about what he learned. As parents of any teen know, talking with a teen – and not having the feeling your are preaching to them – is a precious moment.