As our teens prepare- or wait, who am I kidding? Ahem. As WE prepare for our teens to go back to school, how about sending them off on a positive note…digitally?
I’m a firm believer that digital citizenship and owning one’s digital reputation isn’t discussed nearly enough in high schools. When it is, it’s often watered down or boringly academic material delivered by someone who is disconnected to today’s social media scene. Or, the discussion material is juvenile, targeted at younger kids, and only elicits a yawn of disgust and thoughts of, “Really?! This is a waste of my time. I already know that.”
But, let’s be real. My kid could be the smartest, most talented kid on earth, but if her digital reputation is seriously tarnished, her chances of competing with everyone else for that scholarship, that spot in college, or that job…just flew out the window along with her last tweet.
We’ve all made mistakes, and it’s ok to own that. However, I would venture to say that most teens, while proficient with social media from a purely technical standpoint, don’t know how to position themselves in the best possible light online. After all, their brains aren’t fully developed until they are twenty-five. So. While our teens taught themselves how their own rules of engagement in this vast new online world, I believe it’s on us as parents to show them how to use it with manners and inhibitions and to their benefit vs. their detriment.
Here are 10 tips for helping your teens build a desirable digital reputation for success with scholarships, college and job applications.
#1…Clean it up. All of it. Your public social media accounts are exactly that- public. They are your billboard that hundreds of followers pass by every day. Those followers can and will include potential employers, the parents of that boy you want to date, coaches, scholarship committees, college recruiters, shall I continue? What you post is not yours. It does not belong to you. It will be twisted, shared, re-posted, re-tweeted, and re-grammed in every way possible. Expect that. And, be very careful what you wish for. That high number of “RT’s” for a negative tweet is not something to be proud of.
#2…Delete is your friend. Get rid of social media accounts you don’t use. Like the Ask.fm account you signed up for, used for awhile because you were curious about who was saying what about who, and then never again. Newsflash. You are not under the radar- get rid of it.
#3…Google yourself. You may be surprised what you find. Make sure that you are proud of what you see.
#4…Know that everything you post now and have ever posted is permanent. I know, I just told you to spend time getting cozy with “delete”, and now this. Deleting posts, photos, conversations, even accounts is good if you are not using them productively. However, that doesn’t mean that once you hit ‘delete’, it disappears. Whoever has chosen to download, share, re-post or re-tweet anything you have already put out on public social media is still out there, and they can continue to spread content they have taken from your account, as can their “friends” and followers. The best you can do is to make an honest attempt to clean up what is under your control. And, THEN, proceed to #5.
#5…Post productively when in public. Huh? My general rule of thumb is always ask the following questions before you post anything on any of your public social media:
- Would my parents be proud?
- Does this build up my brand? In other words, am I sharing, posting or talking about something that reflects a passion, creation, aspiration, or accomplishment?
- If I was sitting in front of an interviewer right now (scholarship/college/job/trade/etc), would I point to this as an example of why I rock?
- Is it positive? Attitude is everything- you know that.
#6…Ask permission before you post any pics that have others in them. Never. Ever. Ever. Tag another person without asking first. Not only does it make you look narcissistic if you look good and others don’t, but what you tag someone in affects their digital reputation and ends up in their social media profile. Remember the Golden Rule
#7…Do not allow others to tag you without asking first. Set your profiles to require asking first. And, if someone tags you in a photo or post that you aren’t proud of, ask them to remove it. Or, block them. If someone is tagging you inappropriately, that could be a form of cyber bullying. Report them and block them.
#8…If you wouldn’t say it face to face, don’t say it. It’s really that simple. No excuses.
#9…Learn from others. Find a friend or adult you really admire and look at what they post and how they respond to others. Model yourself after the best example you can find.
#10…Privacy. There’s value in preserving it. Be intentional about what you share and with whom. Remember rule #1- whatever you post on your public social media accounts is permanent and can be found. 800 followers does not equal 800 friends. Check out www.Frienedy.com and create Frienedy Groups that you can share different photos and conversations with- privately. Groups that are completely off the Google radar, that have people in them you actually know and can safely share things with that wouldn’t be smart to share publicly.