We’re living digitized lives these days. Everything we say and do is captured, uploaded and archived across a number of connected devices.
That means that the video of you doing the electric slide in a banana suit at Aunt Marie’s 50th birthday party has a potential shelf life of forever once it has been uploaded to the web. Although your aunt has since deleted the embarrassing video, who knows how many people have found it and posted it somewhere else?
But enough about you—the real issue is how do you manage your child’s online reputation? With this inability to ultimately govern our data files, we need to embrace the importance of a positive online reputation and communicate that message to our youth.
Telling is good but asking is better
Parents, an open dialogue is critical to teaching your children how to manage their personal standing online. To create a positive reputation, serious thought must be given to how your children want to craft their online images. Think of it as building one’s own personal brand. What type of impression do your kids want to leave with others? What type of feeling do they want others to experience when engaging with their web presence?
Ask your kids about their online habits. Join the social networking sites that they belong to—see how they work, find out who else has joined, even “friend” your children.
You may be worried about cyberstalking your kids on Facebook and don’t want to invade their privacy. Don’t feel guilty about monitoring their networking activity. You’re giving them a false sense of security by leading them to believe that privacy exists on the Internet.
Remember: Children don’t yet fully understand the complexity of the advantages and pitfalls that arise from online social navigation. Adult supervision for proper online security is crucial if they are to make sound digital communication decisions.
Social media guidance at school
Teachers, counselors, administrators—engage your students in discussions on how reputations have been created and destroyed by something as simple as an email or a photo taken by a mobile phone. Highlight how celebrities, sports figures, beauty queens and politicians have all experienced the fallout from bad decisions that now exist on the web for eternity.
Students may be familiar with the immediate consequences of social media mishaps. However, it’s vital that they grasp how their behavior across all digital devices strongly affects future opportunities as well, like admission to college, receiving scholarships and gaining employment.
Your young ones may not know it—and certainly would never admit it—but they need your help to cultivate successful online reputations. When you guide your children in posting positive images, videos, comments, etc., they get recognized in ways that will open doors to brilliant futures.
It’s your job to protect your child online
With the appropriate supervision, your kids will be seen as thought leaders, community participants, innovators and humanitarians. They will be recognized for their ideas and their ability to reach out globally. The Internet is a tool that offers boundless, attainable opportunities; they just need your help to make it happen.
Tips to help you manage your child’s online reputation:
1–To help your child create a positive brand, assist him or her in creating a website, blog or electronic portfolio. Use these digital vehicles to document accomplishments, community service and concern for current events taking place across the street and around the world.
2–With your child, scan and search what has been written about him or her online. This can be done on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis—whatever is manageable for the both of you.
3–If your child has uploaded or texted damaging information, act immediately to pull what has been posted. Contact your internet service provider, cell phone company, the website, etc. and walk through the process of how to remove the information.
Marsali Hancock is the president and CEO of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition. A national and international speaker on digital citizenship issues, she is also an advisory board member and partner with many governmental agencies, nonprofits and corporations worldwide, including the Obama administration’s NTIA Online Safety and Technology Working Group