George Zimmerman’s defense attorney Don West may be a little distracted this week. Why? Because his 23-year-old daughter Molly stole the limelight away from his client. And while usually a little distraction would be a positive in such a heated trial, this distraction could have long lasting ramifications. Molly West did what so may people do these days she posted a pic to instagram and tweeted it out to her followers and then some. The problem is the picture wasn’t just of her it included her father too, enjoying post work day ice cream cones. Which would have been fine except for her caption and her hashtags. Molly West titled her pic “We beat stupidity celebration cones.” She went even further and tagged the picture, #Zimmerman #defense #Dadkilledit. Yes you read that right, #DadKILLEDit, while dad is defending a man for killing a teenager. Don West posted a statement in response to the picture,
“Sometimes we’re deeply disappointed by the things our children do. But we love them anyway, and we move on.”
But that wasn’t enough for the Prosecution. After a weekend filled with escalating public outrage about the gaffe they filed a motion in court on Monday. The prosecution motion says the photo was posted after West’s acrimonious cross-examination with prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel. Prosecutors have stated that their official request for an inquiry is necessary to make sure witnesses are treated with respect.
I am anxious to see how the court responds to the prosecutions motion, but in the meantime I thought this situation would be a good teachable moment for my own kids. However, when I broached the subject with my kids I found that they had already done the learning by watching and listening to me over the years. They named 7 social media rules for Molly West that she obviously needs to learn as soon as possible.
Timing Is Everything 1 of 7
Timing is everything. Sometimes even innocent pictures are detrimental. As much as we believe that children, even adult children should be able to post pictures of their parents doing something as innocent as enjoying an ice cream cone, the reality is that sometimes it's just not appropriate in the grand scheme of things. Molly West's father is currently embroiled in a very public, very contentious situation. And any pictures, even innocent ice cream pictures, create unnecessary conflict and potentially hurt his professional standing.
Photo Approval 2 of 7
Never post about your parents without their permission. It's obvious that Don West actually took the infamous ice cream cone picture with his daughter, but if you believe his statement he was unaware of what she was going to do with it. My kids never post a picture of me without permission. Likewise, I observe the same rule with them. Because they should have a say in where and how their likeness is used considering the internet lasts forever.
Represent 3 of 7
When you step into the World of your parents' work or professional space you must always be "on". When my kids accompany me to any of my Spokesperson events or concerts they know that even if they aren't performing with me they are still "onstage" because they are an extension of my brand. Don West's daughter was in attendance at court last week, and was fully cognizent of how many eyes were on her father. It was her responsibility to comport herself in a way that dignified his professional standing.
Words Matter 4 of 7
Words matter. The sweetest of moments can be adulterated by the wrong caption. Molly West took an innocent family ice cream moment and turned it into a polarizing event with her caption "We beat stupidity celebration cones." Though Don West claims it was not taken on the same day the picture did come around the same time he grilled Prosecution Witness Rachel Jeantel, treating her with a style of questioning that was seemingly designed to make Ms Jeantel look like a remedial student. The social media universe picked up on it like vultures on a dead body. Molly West is dialed in to the social scene and it is reasonable ot assume that she was fully aware of Rachel Jeantel testimony backlash. Hence by adding the words "We beat stupidity" to her "celebration cones" caption Ms West took her Instagram photo from private family moment to public taunt in just 16 characters.
Hashtagging For Attention 5 of 7
Tagging says look at me look at how smart I am, or how smart I think I am. You can have a cute caption that seems innocuous but then the tags you use take that picture, that message in an entirely different direct. Molly West actually didn't have an innocuous caption,. Her caption was already judgmental, but it was her tags that assured that her picture would show up on the radar of the World. Without those tags, she may have remained relatively private. But with them it was a sure bet that she would go viral.
Can You Say It Loud? 6 of 7
Don't post anything that you wouldn't be willing to stand up and say in front of a room full of strangers. Posting to a social platform, even one with strict privacy settings, is still a public act. If you are hoping to tell an inside joke, then social media is not the place for you to post. Even if you are posting to a few those few have the ability to capture your content and repost or rebroadcast it to a larger audience.
Taking Responsibility 7 of 7
Always take responsibility for your content. Don't hide. If you make a mistake you stand up, own it, apologize, take your lumps and then do better. Don Wests' daughter, when this story broke, deactivated her accounts and went silent. She hasn't been back to court since. Even though she is a full adult she let her father make an "excuse" statement on her behalf and she did nothing. My children know they are expected to stand with their statements for better or for worse. Taking that responsibility seriously is why they are allowed to have social media accounts in the first place. They are not toys.
I have always told my kids that social media is like fire; it can heat us, it can sustain us, but it can also burn us. Like fire our kids need to learn how to use social media to their benefit, but also how to respect it as well. We all do. How well prepared are your kids for this social age? How well prepared are you?
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