What your kids do and say online today could haunt them later on when a college admissions officer or human resources manager searches the Internet for their name. If you’re not talking to your kids about their online reputation, you should start today.
Here are a few things to tell them about kids and online reputation.
1. What you share online is essentially public.
There’s no way to guarantee that what you post online will stay where you put it. People hack Facebook accounts, friends share private messages and companies change their privacy policies. Before you post a picture, write on a wall or send a message, ask yourself if what you’re sharing is something you would want shared in public. If not, don’t post it.
2. Your online reputation can stay with you for a long time.
Unlike humans, the Internet doesn’t forget. The things you do when you’re young will stick with you forever — and can impact you when you’re older. College recruiters look up information about prospective applicants. And after you graduate, hiring managers and recruiters will look at your online reputation before deciding to hire. So be wise: Mistakes stay around.
3. “Sexting” isn’t just bad for your reputation — it might also be a crime.
“Sexting,” or sharing sexually explicit images via text message or other electronic communication, has become a popular activity among teens. One report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy¹ revealed that approximately one in five teens has sent or posted nude or semi-nude images.
You might intend to share the image with only one person, but these types of images have a way of spreading — including through your school in a matter of hours. This can cause severe emotional and psychological damage and might also subject anyone involved in disseminating the image to criminal prosecution for child pornography.
4. You don’t have to be a cyberbully victim.
If you ever experience cyberbullying, you must tell someone about it. Like traditional bullies cyberbullies belittle and humiliate their victims, but they do so online. Because it doesn’t occur on the playground or in the lunch room, cyberbullying is difficult for school officials to monitor. Sadly, cyberbullying has led to teen suicides across the country. These deaths might not have occurred had the victims spoken out about their abuse.
5. Your online actions can hurt your family.
Many teens operate under the assumption that anything and everything is ok to share online. For example, a teen might write, “Dad was being a jerk tonight. He said it’s because he hates his job and his boss. Lmao!” Though that might seem like an innocent-enough post, if word got back to the father’s boss, he might be in trouble. You must realize that what you share online doesn’t affect only you; every decision you make on the Web has consequences.
Kids and online reputation management may seem like a challenging issue to broach. However, it is better to be prepared than to not address the issue at all.