In today’s fast-paced world, we are often more concerned with access to information than we are about releasing private information to others. When you download a new app for your mobile device, it is not uncommon for the app to ask you for things such as your name, the names of your friends, your age, and even your location. Most people provide this information to the application. There is never a second thought as to what can be done with this information. While most of it is pretty harmless, we have seen an increase in the number of phishing scams and identity theft cases. You may want to play that game or use that app to help you locate your friends, but keep in mind you may be giving people access to a lot of personal data. This information can be used and has the potential of harming your online reputation.
Most adults have grown up in an ever-changing world, in terms of the internet. We have seen all the scams and ways that people use your information. However, many teens are not privy to this knowledge. The burden falls to the older generations to pass on this knowledge. So, to make sure you have the information to pass on to your kids, I have put together a few different ways that you can help the students or teenagers in your life to protect their personal information and by default their online reputation.
Have an Open Conversation
As a parent, it is your responsibility to know powerful social media can be. Just looking at the top four social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumbler, they boast over 3 billion users. Of course, each platform has shared users. Meaning you can have one of each account. With that many people having access to the things your child posts, it is easy to see how a simple misguided post can be taken too far.
Before you allow your child to take on the harshness of the internet, you need to sit down and have a discussion with them. You will probably get the eye roll or exasperation sigh, but do not be deterred. They may not be happy with you, but in the end, they will thank you.
No matter how hard we try, as parents, to protect our kids from the cruelty of the world, we will never succeed. At some point, they will be out on their own and see for themselves. The best thing you can do is have a conversation and educate them on what you know, which brings us to our next point – research.
In addition to being an excellent tool for finding out information you want to know, Google can be the provider of things you never wanted people to know. It is the price we all pay for having access to information at our fingertips 24/7.
When you sit down with your child, the first place you should take them is to Google. They will no doubt have heard of the site, but that is not what is essential. You are going ask them to Google their name. If they have never been on the internet before, and have a unique name, there should be very little, if any, information on them. After that, ask them to Google your name. Considering you have been on the internet for years, they are likely to find more information.
Additionally, you may find some information about yourself that you didn’t want people to know. Instead of being embarrassed, use this as a learning tool for them. Explain that in the same way you didn’t want information about yourself on the internet, they wouldn’t want that either.
The point of the project is to get your child to think about posting on the internet before they publish it. I usually tell people to never post anything on the internet they would not want to have to explain to their grandmother. This is good as an overall rule. While the times are continually changing, a two-generation gap is full of things your grandparents would never have done.
When we read about the number of social influencers, it sometimes makes us wish we had that for ourselves. However, when asked, most social influencers are not happy to be holding that status for more than a year or two. The result of being a social media influencer is that you can’t do anything without others knowing about it. So, while having that power to have people read everything you say may seem like a good idea, at the end of the day, it can be a burden.
To help your child prevent having everything they write read by countless people, make sure you set their accounts to private. While they can change that setting, you will know about it. Each platform has parental controls that will all you to know when your child makes changes to the account and what they post. It may sound like helicopter parenting, but the internet can be an unforgiving place. Protecting your child from having to go through years of torment is worth restricting who they are posting to.
Developing a strategy on how to protect your children’s online reputation best is the first thing you should consider. Before you sit down and talk to them about the perils of the internet, make sure you do your homework. Have websites ready and data to back up your claims. Then all you have to do is sit down and have a conversation about the internet with your child. Don’t forget to remind your child that once they post something on the internet, it will be there forever. No matter how you try, you can never erase the internet. Just because they delete a post does not mean that someone did not take a screenshot and possess the ability to post it for years to come. I wish you the best of luck in having an arguably tricky discussion with your teenagers.