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February 6, 2014

How to Help Your Teenager Manage their Online Reputation

Having a good online reputation is essential for young people if they are to succeed in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. Internet entrepreneur and online reputation management expert, Simon Wadsworth, explains how parents can to help their children build a positive presence on the internet.

In the digital age, how a job or college applicant is perceived online often has more impact than the more ‘traditional CV’. Parents should be concerned about their children’s ‘online CV’ and how it affects their future prospects.

Recruiters and college admission officers are increasingly searching online for information about prospective candidates and students before they interview them. If they find inappropriate content or images published on social media or blogs relating to them, it could mean they are not even considered for the role. Similarly, a lack of presence online can be equally damaging for young people, who may discounted for not showing an active interest in their chosen field.

Parents rightly place significant emphasis (and in some cases money) on a solid education. A well written CV is one of the best tools a young person can have in helping them succeed to further education, and to secure a job. However, parents need to be aware that their children’s future prospects may well be undermined by simply not considering the consequences of what appears about them online.

When was the last time you googled your child’s name?

Recruiters, in particular, are persistent, so search for your child’s name along with their home town, school or club, and see what appears.

It is just as important for parents to act as a ‘role model’ online as it is offline. Talk to your children about the advantages and the hazards of communicating online. Parents should help and support teenagers to keep their social media profiles clean. Encouraging them to start building a digital CV as early as possible, is very beneficial to their future career prospects.

A positive online profile will help recruiters make judgements about them as a prospective candidate. For example, if you have a child who is looking to embark on a career in fashion, then encourage them to write a blog. Expressing their thoughts and ideas about fashion in an online environment is a perfect way of enhancing their CV. Why not get them to set up a Pinterest account and pin everything they like and admire in the fashion world, and suggest they add ideas they have come up with themselves?

Teenagers will ultimately make mistakes online and the likelihood is that they will not realise the consequence of their actions, so guidance is necessary. In October 2013, Facebook announced that they would no longer be ‘protecting teens from their own bad judgment’. In a recent survey by [PEW Internet]* on Teens, Social Media and Privacy, 19% of teenagers surveyed said they had ‘posted updates, comments, photos or videos that they later regretted sharing’.

So what can parents do to help manage the reputation of their children?

The following steps will help you to support your child build a positive online reputation:

Do an audit of your child’s online presence to see how they are representing themselves across social media and blogs.

Help your child to understand their digital footprint and realise the consequences of reacting too quickly online and making ill-advised posts or comments. Make sure they understand the privacy settings on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Privacy settings should be set to ‘friends only’ so that their content has a limited audience. Advise them to turn off the GPS ‘check-ins’ on their mobile devices so they cannot be pinpointed at any time.

Set clear guidelines and spell out the ‘dos and don’ts’ of communicating online. The golden rule of making posts, comments and chatting online is that you should only say something that you would be willing to say to someone in person. Topics which are not acceptable to chat or post about, such as drugs and alcohol, should be avoided. Explain that by ‘deleting’ posts, images and comments after the event may be too late if others have already circulated the content. Online content has the potential to go viral at the speed of light; once that happens they have lost control.

Encourage them to create an online image, which reflects who they are, their interests, hobbies and experiences. What does it say about a candidate who claims they are interested in online marketing, but has no presence online? Encourage them to set up social media across platforms such as Linkedin, Twitter and Google +. Assist them to purchase their own domain name e.g. YourName.com and support them to create a personal blog. The images they use of themselves online, in any scenario, should be ones that they would want a potential recruiter or admissions officer to see. Advise them to remove unwanted tags on unsuitable posts or images.

For a more in-depth look at how to manage personal information online download the ebook A Guide to Managing Personal Information Online.

For those that feel they need professional help with their child’s digital CV please contact me.

Useful Links

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) is a group of more than 200 organisations drawn from across government, industry, law, academia and charity sectors that work in partnership to help keep children safe online.

Advice on child internet safety provides universal guidelines for compiled by members of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) – draws together the most effective messages for keeping children safety online.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

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