Protect their reputation

Reputation matters for our children…

Speak to any teenager and it very quickly becomes obvious that what other people think of them really matters. They care about their reputation and how the world sees them. This is true in the digital world, just as it is in the ‘real’ world.

Reputation matters for our families…

As parents, we always want what is best for our families. We understand the significance of honour; our experience tells us that our reputation and that of our children has huge implications and that it is import to protect them. This is true in the digital world, just as it is in the ‘real’ world.

Online reputation - the AmanTECH 60-second checklist for Digital Parents

If you want some ideas but are in a hurry, just look at the list below for a few tips to help your child manage and protect their online reputation.

Encourage them to think carefully about what they share online and to understand that it can last a long time; even if they decide to remove something it may already have been saved and shared by other people.

Use privacy settings to control their online information and encourage them to decide, before they post or send, whether or not people really need to see what they are sharing. If your teenagers do want to share something, privacy settings and other controls can help to control exactly who can see it, although they are not perfect.

Talk with them regularly to find out where your children are going in the digital world and who they are connecting with. Let them know that they can always come to you if they are worried about something they have seen or shared.

Remind them that how they act, online and offline, can affect their present and future reputation; it is not uncommon for universities and employers to search for applicants’ names online to find out more about them. A poor online reputation can affect a young person’s educational, professional and personal lives.

Challenge them to think about whether or not they would share their information in a different way. Would they put a particular photo on the wall in school for everyone to see? Would they stand up at lunchtime and tell everyone in the room what they are thinking at that moment? If not, they probably shouldn’t be sharing it online.

Who am I?

Young people are in the process of finding out who they are, what they want out of life and which friends are most important to them. They often want to be seen in a particular way and will adjust their actions and attitudes to try to achieve that.

In this digital world, it is no longer just the way that our children act at school or with their friends that they care about; young people are also concerned about how they are perceived online.

Our children, particularly teenagers, create their own digital content by sharing news and opinions on social networks, sending photos and messages to friends, and interacting with other users online. This can be a great way of expressing themselves, having fun and sharing ideas, but caution is also required.

The Digital Parent’s role

Because they’ve grown up with technology, children today may not act as carefully in the digital world as their Digital Parents would like. They might not realise that posting something online is like printing something on the front page of a newspaper; before long, everyone could know about it.

In other words, what goes online, stays online!

Everything young people do in the digital world will contribute to their reputation and has the potential to effect their family too. As Digital Parents it is important that we help them to develop a positive online reputation that is an asset rather than a liability.

How online activity can damage a child’s offline reputation

As Digital Parents, it is vital that we educate our sons and daughters about the huge impact their online activities could have on their reputation in real life.

The main reason is that anything you post online can be searched for and retained by other people; once it’s out there, you often can’t take it back. For example:

- Their social networking profile might contain comments, photos or videos they wouldn’t want fellow students or teachers to see

- They might download and share music or other content illegally

- Someone might publish photos or video of them doing something foolish, embarrassing or reckless

- They might exchange inappropriate messages with people they know, only to find that they have been shared with a wider group

- They could make a nasty or inappropriate comment on somebody else’s Facebook page or in a group message that they later regret

Lights, camera, action!

One piece of digital technology, more than any other, carries the potential to damage a teenager’s reputation. The smartphone!

When most Digital Parents were teenagers, cameras had to be carried in a bag; taking the images and sharing them electronically was time consuming at best, and often impossible.

Jump forward to the 21st century and almost every smartphone has a built in camera that is not only capable of taking high-quality photos and videos, but also of uploading them to the internet in seconds. The potential is there for every action or word to be shared with the world.

Does all of this mean that we should stop our children from accessing the digital world completely?

Almost certainly not; children and young people can learn to enjoy the social opportunities that the internet has to offer safely. With guidance from their Digital Parents, they can learn how to manage their online lives in a way that safeguards their reputation and that of their family.

Scroll back up to the 60-second checklist for ideas and tips to get you started.