On Wednesday, September 23, Tampa Prep freshmen learned how to avoid social media pitfalls from guest speaker Ben Tracy during his webinar “Navigating Life in the Digital Age.” The webinar was required for all ninth grade students as part of the digital citizenship unit of their Transitions course. 

As a high school student, Ben Tracy made social media posts and comments that haunted him well into his adult years and cost him a high profile job. He has since made it his mission to share his experience with students at schools and colleges across the country, in the hopes he can prevent them from making the same mistake. 

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Tracy spoke of his personal story as well as about cyberbullying, sexting and how social media affects mental health. Tracy highlighted conversations he has had with college athletics coaches who admit that they don’t give scholarships to high school students who have made derogatory comments on their social media accounts. He asked students to “be more compassionate with one another” and encouraged them to consider whether they want to be a part of the problem on social media or part of the solution. 

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Topics also included the long-term risks of teens Zoom-bombing high school classes and how to avoid online sexual predators. One student asked Tracy what his thoughts were on having a public social media account versus a private account. Tracy answered definitively that students should have all of their accounts set to “private.” Another student asked what they should do if they regret making a comment they made on someone else’s post and now they can’t find the post to delete those comments. 

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“There’s no perfect answer to that question,” Tracy said. “Start by talking to the original poster. Admit that you’re not proud of that comment, and ask if you can work together to find and remove the derogatory comments and content. Then stop that behavior moving forward. You all are the ones who can make a difference. Be the change at your school.” 

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