How Not to Destroy a Kid's Online Reputation

  • 22 February 2012
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  • Retired Webrooter
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Online browsing and social media sites play a central role in building your identity online. This means that kids are especially susceptible to publishing regrettable content online. 
If you have a teen who is active online, here are some way to keep them from crossing over to the proverbial Dark Side:
Teach them that they are searchable online
The Pew Internet Project found that “two thirds of online teens are content creators–meaning they create videos, post photos, write blogs and message boards." While these activities serve as a way to participate in social networking, teens run the risk of posting something they might later regret.
According to one study, 19% of adults use search engines to discover a person's professional contacts (coworkers, competition, etc), and 11% use Google as a tool to weed out applicants for jobs.
The bottom line: The pictures and comments that teens post on Facebook and other platforms may permanently connect them with unprofessional, immature, and inappropriate behavior.
Help develop a sense of accountability

Open up a dialogue about your kid's online presence, and be upfront with them about the fact that you will do so. Discussing these expectations creates a sense of accountability (not to mention you'll get your voice inside their head).
Encourage your kid to post things about themselves that are sincere, helpful, and constructive. Sit down with them and view their social profiles (yeah, this might be tough...but do it anyway). Help them understand situations where it's not okay to publish negative content: bashing a teacher, complaining about a friend, talking poorly about a job, etc.
Learn that it's okay to be the annoying parent
As you regularly supervise your kid's online actions, give them feedback. Evaluate the tone in which they write about themselves. Emphasize the importance of posting material that will not be considered distasteful or unattractive to an admissions advisor or employer. After all, the results of "Oops, my bad" are different online than in the real world.
Quick Tips:  
- Go to Google Alerts and "subscribe" to your child’s name (notifies you each time their name is mentioned)
- Teach your kids about creating lists on Facebook to help them filter content
- Check out the FBI's Internet safety guide for parents 
- Check out this previous post 

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