Parents have been worrying about what their kids and teens are posting online. Teachers and other social media experts have warned teens, especially those applying to colleges, to keep their social networking sites clean. Many have even encouraged them to start building their digital resume early by creating blogs and profiles that recruiters will find as they search the Internet for your child's name.
This past week, PEW Internet released their latest study on Teens, Social Media and Privacy. They found that teens are sharing more information about themselves on social media sites than they did in the past. For example, 91% post photos of themselves, up from 79% in 2006. In terms of being proactive, 57% of teens in this study say they have decided not to post something online because they were concerned it would reflect badly on them in the future.
Oversharing can be risky, especially when it comes to your online reputation. However, according this latest study, teens are taking steps to manage their online reputation!
Here are some other findings from the PEW research:
• 59% have deleted or edited something that they posted in the past
• 53% have deleted comments from others on their profile or account
• 45% have removed their name from photos that have been tagged to identify them
• 31% have deleted or deactivated an entire profile or account
• 19% have posted updates, comments, photos or videos that they later regretted sharing
Interestingly, when the teens in the PEW Study Focus group were asked about how adults, such as parents, influence their social behavior, the responses were, for the most part, positive. They are keenly aware that a teacher, parent, relative, coach or other adult in their life may be reading their social networking site, so they think twice about what they are posting. This is a good thing!
Female (age 17):
I mean, I kind of feel like it [adult scrutiny] does teach you to watch what you post at the same time. Obviously, it is a little invading of the privacy, but I feel like it has taught me to watch what I post. What you post does represent you, whether you like it or not, it really does. And if you post something, middle finger up or swearing constantly, they're going to think that's who you are. So I think it has taught me to watch what I post.
Male (age 13): "Yeah. I realize that whatever I post online, I should be comfortable with everyone in the world seeing it."
I would say this is proof that most teens are listening, and parents need to continue talking to their kids about the importance of building a positive online reputation.
Parents need to remember that they need to be the role model to their teens not only in real life, but in their cyber-life, too. Many kids today are friends with their parents on social networking sites such as Facebook. Online behavior can be observed and mimicked, so parents need to think twice about oversharing and their sometimes off-the-cuff comments that their kids are viewing.
As parents, it is important for us to understand and teach our kids that in today's world, if they don't have control of their digital profile, it could literally mean the death of their future. Teens need to control it, they need to own it and they have to take the time to manage it -- start with creating an official blog in their name. Showcase their interests and hobbies, and make it a reflection of who they are. Colleges and potential employers (and even potential dates) like to see that their applicants are enthusiastic about their lives. No ones like a "Debbie Downer." Never post when angry or upset, that is a rule teens should live by, and hopefully, parents do the same. Online reputation management is important for us all now, no matter how young or old we may be.
• Online Reputation Management isn't just for businesses; teens are finally learning their cyber-life can determine their future.
• College students aren't off the hook just because they are already accepted into their school. The next step is the big one. Take the real resume verses your online resume challenge.
• Never stop maintaining your digital footprint. It is simply that important.
Congratulations to all the teenagers that are finally waking up to the reality that the Internet will be dictating the majority of their future life path ... both online and off.