Your teen’s online reputation. Helping them tidy their digital footprint

Your teen must be taught their online reputation has the ability to make or break them in today’s digital world. There’s no point minimising it because life’s reality means that future employers, girlfriends (or boyfriends) and teammates can and will see more than what’s presented at face value. Thanks google!

AND… let’s not forget that every key stroke contributes to a digital footprint.

What’s a digital footprint anyway and how is related to online reputation?

Simply put, a digital footprint is the sum of someone’s online activity. Every message sent, every Facebook status liked and every photo uploaded can contribute to this, even if someone believes it was privately sent or has since been deleted.

Digital footprints can also come back and kick people in the bum as a teen local to me found out after posting on a Facebook community page. The girl in question, aged 15, introduced herself and asked to be considered for babysitting work. In her post she mentioned her love of kids, willingness to travel and experience with younger siblings and neighbours. Sounds quite the entrepreneurial thing to do… right?

I’m not sure she expected the backlash, but it came, quickly and furiously. Comment after comment, some offering advice respectfully, others nowhere near as polite. A click over to this young lady’s publicly accessible Facebook page showed exactly why… there’s no way in hell I would have left her in charge of my 5 year old. A feed full of selfies in her underwear or swimmers (hard to tell these days and I wasn’t interested in looking very long!) and pouting over bathroom sinks… selfies with middle fingers displayed and tongue out… and then the language. Oh. My. The language. You get the rest of the story, I’m sure.

If your teen is online, their digital footprint is already being created and their online reputation is being formed.

We can’t undo what’s already done BUT there are certainly steps we can take to help our kids tidy up their online reputation. Here are 5 actionable things you can help them with today…

STEP 1: Check privacy settings – is the profile set to private? If not, why not? Be sure to check Facebook settings regularly as sometimes updates reset privacy to public as default.

STEP 2: Cull the friends list. I like the idea of sitting beside your teen and asking them how they know each person on their “friends” list. I regularly see kids with literally thousands of Facebook friends and I don’t feel it’s sensible or appropriate.

STEP 3: Get them to go through their photo albums (on Facebook and Instagram) and tell them to delete any picture they would not want plastered on a roadside billboard… or shown to Grandma. That means any pics depicting drinking, smoking, bras & undies, cleavage, fighting etc etc etc should be removed. Pronto. Would they want a future boss seeing such things?

STEP 4: Moderate the language – remove any posts which would paint an unfavourable picture. Again the “Grandma” rule of thumb is a good one to apply here!

STEP 5: Close any unused email accounts and social media profiles. This not only limits the potential for hacking it also means their digital footprint is cleaner and less likely to surface in the future.

All of those steps can be taken in the space of an afternoon and it’s best not to ignore them. As more and more of our lives become digital, maintaining a positive online reputation is increasingly important.

Have you worked with your teen on auditing their digital footprint? How about your own?

(Source: teenagesurvivalcoach.com.au; September 17, 2015; http://tinyurl.com/hrhdcyg)

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