Winter Break, Spring Break: No Break for Online Reputation

It is that time of the year again, when teens are planning their trips or what they will be doing with their time off during school break.

One thing we know about teenagers: their social media won’t be taking any vacations, quite the contrary, keystrokes and uploads usually work overtime.teens and online reputation during spring break

Parents continue to have the discussions about underage drinking, distracted driving, the need to use protection if their teen is having sex, but are they discussing the need to think before they post their personal business online?

Your digital footprint is a shadow that will follow you with every keystroke you tap and photo you post. But it actually goes further than that. Are your friends tagging you in photos and comments? Many don’t realize that will also haunt your online reputation.

Digital parenting is just as important as parenting offline. Today your child’s future will literally be based on what their virtual image says about them. Not only are college recruiters searching social media sites for how teens behave online, potential employers are doing the same thing. Your child’s cyber-behavior will determine their financial future, it is that simple.

Let’s keep in mind, there is no rewind online.

This is a reminder for parents too. In recent surveys, parents are the number one influencers of their children and teenagers. Your teens are not only watching you offline, they are watching you online. You are their role models.

I often like to say that while parents are monitoring their kids, the kids are snooping on their parents.

When I watch parents use Facebook or other platforms of social media as a venting machine, I often wonder: Do they realize their kids can see this?

Many parents are not using their privacy settings accurately, and since their photos and comments are set to public anyone can see them, including children.

I don’t want to pick on moms, but they can be a bit more gossipy, and we need to realize if we expect our children not to be this way online, we must model good digital citizenship for them. If we are ranting and arguing in a malicious manner online, we need to remember that our kids are watching us. And they are likely to mimic our behavior.

It is not any different than if a dad decides to post a picture of mom in a bikini that maybe just isn’t appropriate. There comes a time (now) when everything we do will affect our future lives — our financial lives.

With school break coming up shortly, let’s remind our teens that drinking and driving kills, distracted driving kills, they should never have sex without protection, and they should always think before they type — pause before every post.

Suggestion for teens:

  • Create a free digital scrapbook for your Winter Break 2014 or Spring Break 2014 with Smile Box or other services to store your memories in. With a scrapbook, if someone stumbles upon your winter break fun-in-the-sun pictures, they may have a better understanding of a debatable photo (which I still would not encourage) since the label Spring Break Album gives context to the picture.
  • Maintain your privacy settings. Especially while posting photos, you have control over who sees them. Make it a habit to check your privacy settings on your social media sites weekly. Especially Facebook, it has a tendency to change without notice.
  • Friends are your friends until they aren’t. Never assume that someone is your friend because they are friends with another friend of yours. Anyone can take your content and copy/paste it to other sites and manipulate it to tarnish your name. Make it a habit to review your friends list — know who you are friends with.
  • Digital citizenship is a priority. It will be part of your life now and forever. Let kindness be part of your keystrokes and social behavior. Lead by example, your friends will follow.

 

Parents, you matter. Lead by example, online and off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sue Scheff is a Nationally Recognized Author, Parent Advocate and Family Internet Safety Advocate. She founded Parents Universal Resources Experts, Inc. in 2001. Her expertise is educating parents that are struggling with their out-of-control teenager and Internet safety for both kids and adults.

Sue Scheff

Sue Scheff is a Nationally Recognized Author, Parent Advocate and Family Internet Safety Advocate. She founded Parents Universal Resources Experts, Inc. in 2001. Her expertise is educating parents that are struggling with their out-of-control teenager and Internet safety for both kids and adults.

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