While I was recently surfing things Internet, I came across an intriguing site that highlights a new phase in efforts both to curtail cyberbullying and to promote a prudently managed online reputation for children. The movement, as explained on the site, originates in southern California. It aims to make parents and children aware today about the potential risks in the future that post-secondary institutions or employers might search a person’s online history to see if anything turns up that might compromise that person as a candidate for study or employment. For example, those selfies of 13-year-olds availing themselves of a questionable substance might have seemed innocuous once upon a time. However, the images might take on a different context ten years from now when those same students are applying to law school, and school admission officers happen upon pictures of their (mis)adventures on Google.
Avoid “dad fail”
A heightened sense of reputation management as part of personal branding was brought home to me in a very immediate, if not quite comical, way recently. My son casually mentioned that he has a student computer-account at his primary school. This enables the school authorities to monitor what he is viewing, for example, on the YouTube channel at home. Just as casually, he mentioned he has occasionally gotten up from the computer but not necessarily shut off the school-account monitoring function. I, his dad, recall having logged on to YouTube after my son unwittingly failed to log off from it while in his school account, and I was thus unaware that the school authorities could still monitor me. This is not to say things I was viewing were too risqué you understand, though I couldn’t say categorically that every video I viewed would have passed his Catholic school’s propriety test! Oops, “dad fail.” Moral of the story for dad: safeguarding your, and your child student’s, online reputation is something you have to watch closely, carefully and regularly.
The “safesmartsocial”web site in question offers a number of tips to help ensure a “clean” online presence for parents and children, including:
Parents should check what their child is posting, including posts the child initiates as well as comments he or she may receive or forward about others. Anything questionable should be flagged and consequences (such as barring access to the computer) applied as need be.
Consider it a given that any person your child is connecting to and from, including posts and tags, can be found; in other words, such activity may not ever be able to be completely erased from the social media platform on which it was originated. Any dubious person or thing your child or your child’s friends are involved with posting today may resurface in the future, with unintended and unfortunate results.
Keep it uncluttered and clean
The advice on the website is to review the content on social media the child has access to, and update it to make sure that there is nothing dated, irrelevant, or perhaps questionable, if seen by others, perhaps a year or two or more from now.
Focus on building a positive digital footprint
A final suggestion on the website: encourage children to use social media in a positive way to showcase their achievements, talent and potential. Doing so will solidify students’ online reputation and enhance their opportunities to be considered, for example, for scholarship or job applications in the future in the event school admissions officers or employers Google them.
Now, if I can just finish that apology letter to my son’s school principal about my surfing the Kardashian and AC/DC videos…:)
What’s your take? Should parents and children today be exercising greater discretion and judgement about what they post online today and how it could affect their prospects for the future?
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