You might not have ever thought about this, but you and your kids have a digital reputation. You create this image through all your online actions, activities, and communications. The sites you visit, the things you say and how you say them, the text, pictures, and videos you post all paint a picture of who you are. This is your digital footprint; the digital tracks you leave behind. And once it’s online, it could be there forever.
In 2010, a US survey showed that around 75% of two-year-olds had a digital reputation. This had arisen from parents sharing photographs and other information through social networking sites. While this is not something which would be particularly negative it highlights how the internet has become the central area for sharing information. As children become more independent, the internet will play an increasingly more important part in their lives through the development of their skills and knowledge as well as being a place where they will socially interact with others.
As part of the skills needed to be a good digital parent it is paramount that young people know that a negative digital presence online could hinder future opportunities in the workplace. Every parent and guardian wants the very best for their children and they need to educate their children about what they upload and the consequences of having a negative digital presence online. Cases arising from the riots in the UK during August 2011 show that inciting antisocial behaviour, cyberbullying and making racist or homophobic comments can lead to police prosecution and a criminal record.
It is also important for parents to emphasise how the internet can be used to promote their children’s skills and talents. Professional social networking sites have been created so that young professionals can upload their CVs to highlight their qualifications and experience. The internet is also a key resource for young people to research future careers as all colleges and universities have materials available on the courses they provide and communication links to enable students to email admission tutors with questions.
You can help manage your kids Digital Reputation by encouraging them to:
- Keeping personal details private. Use a nickname instead of a real name and always get your kids to ask you before giving out your name, address or phone number online.
- Not share a username or password with anyone.
- Thinking before they post. Once posted, it can be difficult to remove.
- Not post things that they don't want others to know about or that they wouldn’t say to their face.
- Be respectful of other people’s content that they post or share. For example, a photo that a friend took is their friends property, not theirs. They should post it online only if you have their permission.