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Your Online Reputation Doesn't Take the Holidays Off

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Last summer, I wrote about the fact that bullies and cyberbullies don't take summer vacations, unfortunately, they don't recognize holidays, either. Online abuse is only one area of cyberspace that needs your attention year round, another important piece is your online reputation -- and this rarely goes on vacation.

It's the time of year when many people are excited about sharing their holiday pictures. This is especially true for parents, so maybe most of the photos you see are of their adorable children. Then again, maybe there was an office party where some of the attendees had a little too much fun and those pictures and videos quickly made it on to several social networking sites.

Oversharing is a topic that is not limited to teens and kids. It is evident that some adults are not grown-up yet when it comes to their keyboards and what they are sharing -- especially during the holidays. Everyone needs to take precautions to secure their privacy settings when making the decision to share their holiday festivities.

Whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or a text on your cell phone, many will see photos and videos flying through cyberspace over the holiday season. Maybe some of these pictures and videos won't be so joyous; this is when digital decisions may have been made in haste.

It isn't only about pictures and videos, it can also be about the comments you or your friends make on the postings. It is incredible how comments can be taken out of context -- what was thought to be a friendly compliment can soon be twisted into ugly warfare in a comment thread.

Understanding that your digital footprint is always following you, like a shadow that never fades, is the first step in fully comprehending that all keystrokes matter when it comes to your online reputation.

What is your digital footprint?
According to Toni Birdsong, writing on McAfee Blog Central,

A digital footprint, much like your fingerprint, is the unique activity trail you leave online. Everyone has one. Your digital footprint includes "hard" information that the Internet gathers about you through your email, your online registrations, your video and photo uploads, and your combined activity on social networks. A digital footprint also includes "soft" information such as the impression you leave through your overall words, photos, and interactions with others.


With this in mind, parents and teens (as well as everyone else) need to consider each photo and video they post and comment on. These activities have the distinct possibility of reflecting on your virtual image. It's important to make sure that you keep it positive.

Online reputation is a priority for many people, and last spring we were pleased to hear that teens are taking their digital lives more seriously today.

During the holiday season, Facebook walls can become a landscape of photos and videos -- some that you may approve of and some that you don't. The key question is, what will college recruiters or potential employers think of your social media choices?

It is not only about your pictures and videos, it is about the judgment you display in your social media habits and behavior. Keep in mind, there is no rewind online, and just because it is the holidays doesn't mean that the lights are off your digital image.

Building and maintaining your online reputation is as important to teens, business owners, and people in the workplace (especially those looking for employment) as the holidays are to kids.

Give the gift of digital presence.

Purchase your teen their first piece of digital real estate, an URL, in their name! This is a fantastic way to initiate their virtual image with their own website. It's both a fun and useful gift!

Whether it is college admissions or prospective employers, they will search his/her name and find this website that showcases your teen's interests, hobbies and the pictures they choose to post.

The gift of digital presence isn't only great for teens; it can also be fun for relatives or friends that may enjoy showcasing their hobbies or interests.

Buying an URL and hosting it is cost-effective and each year you can renew this as their holiday gift to them. The gift of virtual presence is priceless!

Takeaway tips:

• Take the time to set your Google Alerts with your name and your child's name.
• Secure your privacy settings on all your social media sites, especially those that you are posting photos on. Double check weekly, they have a habit of changing without notice.
• Select what friends you are sharing your pictures and videos with carefully.
• Maintaining your online reputation is important; an outside source like Reputation.com can help.
• Give someone you love the gift of digital presence.

What will your digital presence say about you this holiday season?