With spring break around the corner, it's time for parents to remind their teenagers to protect their online reputations. It's necessary for us to not only talk to our kids about the dangers that they face online, but also to remind them of the importance of their virtual manners. What our children need to understand -- especially teens that will be applying to colleges and their first time jobs -- is that their online image is just as important as their parent's or any other adult's in business today.
We need to encourage our kids to keep it clean online especially when it comes to their social networking on sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Facebook offers privacy settings for Timelines and Tagging, and it is wise to encourage your kids to use them -- but to also be wary of the risk of waking up one morning to find that their private photos have suddenly been copied and pasted by a friend turned foe. If someone posts something to their wall that is questionable or inappropriate, your child needs to know that it is okay to remove that post immediately. Your child also has to use caution with what they are posting; the cliché, what you post today can haunt you tomorrow, is absolutely true. Why risk it?
Our children need to learn to ask themselves: Is that picture or post really that important? Is 15 minutes of gratitude worth risking getting into your college of choice or landing a dream job? Are those spring break photos something that you want everyone to view?
When it comes to online reputation our kids should start young in building their own virtual image. Let's face it, most of them spend a lot of time in cyberspace. Let's encourage them to spend time building a positive reflection of themselves and start owning their own online real estate.
A simple place to start outside of social networking is building a blog; creating their own blog is actually the beginning of building their virtual real estate. This can be fun, entertaining, and an exciting way to express who they are. (Adults should take note, too. It is never too late to start building your online reputation.)
WordPress (free version) is user-friendly and a great place to begin. Although many teens are turning to Tumblr for a blogging experience, creating a blog on WordPress is quite different. WordPress will walk them through the steps of personalizing their blog, and they will actually own a bit of cyberspace that could eventually become their website.
An important step will be creating a URL -- the name of their blog or website. Choosing their real name is ideal, but if their name is taken, WordPress will suggest similar alternatives. It is important to choose a URL as close to their name as possible. This helps when anyone needs to do an Internet background search on them -- whether it is for a babysitting gig, a job hire, or college placement, they want their online reputation to stand out in a positive way.
Once that has been done they will be ready to blog! So what will they blog about? Try to keep it positive -- they also want to be sure their grammar and spelling are correct and they don't want to use any profanity.
Blog topic ideas:
• Hobbies and interests: Do they have a favorite app or game? Do they love dance or sports? They can tell the readers about their favorite teams.
• Movie and book reviews: Have they seen any good movies? Read any good books? Post a picture of the book cover or a trailer of the movie.
• Visit a local restaurant? Anything they would recommend from the menu?
• Vacations, travels: talk about places they have visited.
• Summer Camps: Did they attend a summer camp or participate in a teen travel event? Share those experiences. Would they recommend them and why?
• Have they won any awards? Share them -- be proud.
• Spring break? Well, be careful what they decide to post about that. Use good judgment.
There are so many things to write about, but they should focus on the topics they are passionate about. Staying positive is not always easy, let's face it, life can throw us curve balls. There is nothing wrong with having a down day now and then, but stay away from posting a lot of darkness, and especially steer clear of using profanity.
Once they have mastered their WordPress blog, they should try to update it weekly or as often as they can. It is important to continue to maintain their digital image. The Internet is not going away, and their blog will be something they can look back on and see how much they have accomplished, including spring break and the choices they made.
Takeaway tips for parents:
Online reputation isn't just for teens. If you are looking for a job, own a business, or are a professional, you are being searched online! It is a fact that more and more people use search engines to poke into your digital image -- many won't give you a second glance if it is tainted. They will go straight to the next candidate. Don't risk your online reputation, you can maintain it.
Create your future one positive keystroke at a time.