HANOVER COUNTY, Va. — It was an emotional homecoming for Atlee’s Little League softball team.
The girls arrived at Richmond International Airport on Sunday to a crowd of supporters and parents holding signs and offering cheers of encouragement.
But it wasn’t the homecoming Atlee had been hoping for after a stunning performance in Washington.
The 12 players were disqualified Saturday morning over a crass social media post directed at the host team, just hours before the title game of the Junior Little League World Series.
The Snapchat photo showed several team members giving the middle finger to the Kirkland team after a contentious game.
Atlee manager Scott Currie learned of the post, and immediately made the girls apologize.
It was too late.
The fallout from the post not only got the team disqualified, but placed the young girls, ages 12-14, in the glare of the national spotlight.
For parents like Chesterfield resident Matthew Hinderer, it’s a devastating lesson he hopes caught his teenage son’s attention.
“I do have growing concerns as he gets older that he’s going to want a Facebook account and different things that I can’t control and that is a scary thought,” Hinderer said.
The world of social media has make adolescence, already a tumultuous time, even more difficult for teens and pre-teens.
That’s because mistakes, often made in those developing years by daring, curious and impulsive minds, are exposed for everyone to see.
“You have a highly impulsive person, but the filters aren’t there,” said VCU child psychiatrist Dr. Bela Sood. “We have social media where people take pictures of each other and without much thought that goes into it, is broadcast and once it’s out there, you can have enough remorse to fill the entire Pacific Ocean, but it’s not coming back.”
Sood said parents should talk to their children often about social media, including setting boundaries, instilling values that are important to the family, and understanding consequences of impulsive decisions.
It is important children understand that inappropriate use of social media can cost reputations, scholarships and even lives.
Studies link depression and suicide to pressures relating to social media.
“The way I put it to most parents is none of these things can be taught in war time, they have to be taught in peace time,” Sood said. “That’s when they have an open ear and open mind.”
Sood believes mistakes are inevitable in adolescence. Unfortunately, the stakes this day in age, are even higher.