Spring Break 2019 is in full swing, which means high school and college kids have hit the road determined to make this rite of passage epic. Unfortunately, not everyone will return home with his or her online reputation intact.
Despite the headlines and warnings, kids are still uploading their lives 24/7 and not all of their choices will be wise. While impressive at the moment, showcasing one’s exceptional beer pong or body shot skills could become a future digital skeleton.
Each day more than one billion names are searched on Google, and 77% of job recruiters look up potential employees up online during the hiring process, according to BrandYourself.com. Also, 45% of people have found content in an online search that made them decide not to do business with someone.
As elementary as it sounds, the first step to helping your child safeguard his or her online reputation this spring break is defining what is and is not appropriate online content.
Technology has created a chasm between generations so don’t assume your values align with your child’s in this area. Behavior once considered inappropriate has slowly become acceptable to kids who grew up in the online space. Also, peers often have far more influence than parents.
So take the time to define (and come to an agreement on) content you consider off limits such as profanity, racy photos, mean, disrespectful, or racist comments, irresponsible or prank videos, or pictures that include alcohol or drug use. (Yes, state the obvious!)
Turn off tagging. Like it or not, people often judged us by the company we keep. Your child’s online behavior may be stellar but tag-happy, reckless friends can sink that quickly. To make sure your child doesn’t get tagged in risky photos on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, encourage them to adjust privacy settings to prevent tagging or require user approval. Also, help your kids to pay more attention to unflattering Snapchat photos and Snapchat story photos that other people post about them that can be problematic if shared elsewhere.
Amp privacy settings. By adjusting privacy settings to “friends only” on select social networks content, digital mistakes can be minimized. However, we know that anything uploaded can be shared and screen captured before it’s deleted so tightening privacy settings isn’t a guarantee.
To get a clear picture of your child’s digital footprint and what a school or future employer might find, Google your child’s name. Examine the social networks, links, and sites that have cataloged information about your child. One of the best ways to replace damaging digital information is by creating positive information that overshadows it. Encourage your child to set up a Facebook page that reflects their best self — their values, their goals, and their character. Make the page public so others can view it. They may also consider setting up a LinkedIn page that highlights specific achievements, goals, and online endorsements from teachers and past employers.
If for some reason there’s damaging content that can’t be removed by request, encourage your child to set up a personal website and blog weekly. This can be a professional or hobby blog, but the idea is to repopulate the search results with favorable content and push the tainted content further down on Google.
In your guiding, don’t forget the wise words of Cyndi Lauper who reminds us all, “Girls just wanna have fun!” Strive for balance in giving kids the room to make memories with friends while at the same time equipping them to make wise choices online.