Five online reputation management tips for students

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Great online reputation management tips for students.

Students are usually among the savviest of computer users, and their knowledge extends to using the Internet. Unfortunately, young adults sometimes forget that the actions and activities they engage in could be quite damaging to their online reputation. Students may not understand this fact until after the damage has already been done. They often realize that their online reputation has become damaged only when they apply to the school of their choice or when they interview for their first job. Here are five online reputation management tips for students that can help.

Think before you go public with information on the Internet.

One of the great things about the Internet is the ability to immediately post information. However, sometimes this speed can also be a detriment to one’s online reputation. It’s to get caught up in the moment, posting information you may soon regret on social networking websites, forums and other websites. Some students engage in “flame wars,” spread gossip, or simply post comments in the heat of the moment. Posting a negative comment about a friend, teacher, coworker or boss may be tempting. However, it’s important to remember that what you say online is public and will remain with you for a long time.

Schools and employers can perceive posting negative comments online as a sign of general immaturity or as an inability to get along with others. In some cases, posting these kinds of comments could even be classified as online libel. Of course, there are actions that can be taken to improve one’s online reputation when the damage is done. However, the better plan is not to let the damage occur in the first place. You should always think twice before posting anything online. If it’s not something you would want a future school admissions board or a potential employer to read, then don’t post it.

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Understand website privacy settings.

Although it’s not always easy to understand a website’s privacy settings and policies, using them properly is vital. Because these policies can change frequently, many students have discovered that posts intended to be viewed only by “friends” are now visible to a wider audience. This can lead not only to embarrassment and hurt feelings but also to online reputation damage.  Use thes online reputation management tips for students to mitigate this issue.

In order to avoid this problem, you should always make sure to thoroughly read and understand the website’s privacy policy and to set your privacy controls accordingly. When posting information, take care to set the security properly, even if it means adjusting the privacy for a single post individually. Websites that offer the ability to assign security by groups can also help. By using security settings diligently, posts will be read only by the intended audience. Facebook, for instance, allows users to determine the level of privacy they maintain while communicating and sharing with friends online. By adjusting their privacy levels, users can determine who can see certain aspects of their profile, and who cannot.

Monitor other people’s comments.

Even if you’re diligent about never posting detrimental information online, your friends might not be as conscientious. Right or wrong, people are often judged by the company they keep. Friends who post rude comments, inappropriate jokes, embarrassing photos or rants on your page can make internet reputation management more difficult. Although these kinds of situations can be uncomfortable to deal with, it’s important for you to talk to your friends about what they’re doing. Many times people simply don’t understand the ramifications of their actions and will stop if you make them aware of it. However, if the behavior continues, you’ll either have to be more vigilant about editing and censoring the posts on your page or simply block the person from posting.

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Never engage in “sexting.”

Although it might seem exciting to send sexually explicit words and images via text messaging, chatting or other forms of electronic communications, it can also be a quick way to ruin your online reputation. Sexting can cause major problems now and in the future. Even if you only intend the photos or messages to be viewed by one person, you really don’t have any control over who eventually sees or reads them. If the recipient forwards the photos or messages to another person, the end result could be truly humiliating. You could be risking the chance of your intimate photos and messages being shared with your entire school or even the whole world if posted online. It’s also important never to forward any sexting messages that somebody forwards to you, because disseminating pornography could even lead to criminal prosecution.

Avoid communicating online with strangers.

Even though it might look impressive to have hundreds of online “friends,” in reality you should try to limit your online personal connections. If you receive a friend request, email or other electronic communication from somebody you don’t know, just ignore it. Online social networks tend to encourage a “friend of a friend” mentality. If you’re not careful, pretty soon you could find yourself with friends you don’t even know. This kind of behavior really puts your online reputation at risk because you don’t know what these people might do with your information. Setting your privacy controls as high as possible on social networking websites can help avoid this problem. By doing so, strangers won’t be able to read your information. After all, that person who sent you a friend request might actually be a scammer, stalker or even a cybercriminal.

Also be careful with emails, text messages, chat messages or other electronic communications received from strangers. Why would somebody who doesn’t know you be trying to communicate with you? At best, the communication was made in error. However, the person might also be trying to scam or deceive you, which could put your Internet reputation — or even your safety — at risk.  Use these online reputation management tips for students to keep your online reputation healthy.

Susan Campbell is an independent privacy consultant and author of several articles on online privacy management and reputation management.

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