The internet keeps a record of everything we do online – the photos we upload, the comments other people make about us and things we buy. This is our online reputation. It’s important children understand how to manage their online reputation and the impacts for them of a negative online reputation.
How is my child’s online reputation formed?
Many parents nowadays post their baby’s scan picture and photos of their newborn on social network pages. Children themselves start sharing information from a young age – the result is that by the time they are 18, a permanent and often substantial record will exist about them.
What happens if that information is inaccurate, or is the result of sexting or bullying? Once uploaded, such information is difficult to erase or change and could have a long-lasting impact.
A video from Parent Zone and the Internet Watch Foundation on the dangers of posting photos online.
What effects can a poor online reputation have?
How do I know what sort of online reputation my child has?
You can find out more about your child’s online reputation by taking the following steps:
- search for your child online – use different search engines and check using your child’s whole name and other identifying information such as town or nickname. Also search on Google images
- look at the kind of information these searches reveal – are the comments, photos, links appropriate? Do they include private information like their school or address? If your child has a blog, what does it say?
- if your child is a member of a social networking site, consider joining it yourself and ask to be your child’s online connection, or get another trusted adult to do this. Be aware that some children may have two or more profiles, one they share with their parents, and one they use for talking to their friends
- put all the information together and see what it says about your child. Does the picture it portrays feel right to you?
Talking to your child about their online reputation
You can help your child maintain a positive presence online by ensuring they understand the long-lasting effects of everything they do online. It’s a good idea to talk about these issues before they start to create a digital footprint. Here’s how:
It’s a two-way process
Let them know that their online reputation comes partly from what they post about themselves and partly from what others post about them.
Private can mean public
Teach your child that it’s difficult to keep things private online. Even best friends pass on messages you’ve asked them not to, accounts and profiles get hacked, and companies can change their privacy policies. Children should never post anything online they don’t want thousands of people, including their family, to see.
Model good online behaviour yourself
Set an example in the way you behave online, be aware of how you use social media and tell your child that you would never post anything you wouldn’t want them to see.
Think before they share
Children should understand that their actions online can affect both themselves and others. They should never say anything about anyone they wouldn’t want said about them – and remember that nasty comments they make now may reflect back on them for years to come.
How to help your child build a good online reputation
The good news is that you and your child can create a positive online reputation that will benefit them over the years. Here’s how:
Learn about online privacy
Teach your child how to set the privacy settings on all their social networks and other websites, and ensure they understand why they need to be careful what personal information they share online, and with whom.
Keep passwords private
Children should never share their passwords – even with trusted friends. Teach them how to create strong passwords and tell them to change them regularly.
Monitor their online reputation
Make it a habit to check the information that’s online about your child. Keep an eye on the social network pages and other sites your child uses.
Correct inaccurate information
If you see inaccurate information about your child ask the person who posted it to correct or delete it. If they won’t, ask the site administrator to do so. But act quickly – the longer it stays public the more likely it is to spread.
Treat others as they would like to be treated
Remind your child to respect the reputation and privacy of others when they post anything about them. Always agree to remove material that upsets anyone else.
Set a good example by making sure your own online reputation is positive and only contains what you want the world to see.
Build a positive presence
Your child can use their online presence to build a positive reputation for themselves – for instance by writing a blog on a topic they are passionate about.
Deactivate and delete
When your child stops using a social networking profile or website, it’s a good idea to deactivate or delete their account. This will mean that the account is no longer live and shouldn’t be searchable online. However, make sure you’re fully informed – as deleting doesn’t always prevent information from being shared (e.g. Google Photos keeps collecting information even after the app has been deleted)
How to Help Your Teenager Manage their Online Reputation by Simon Wadswoth
Managing a teen’s digital life: tip for parents by Luke Roberts
Selfies, the good, the bad and the downright irritating – Parent Info
What is a digital tattoo? – Parent Info
Critical thinking online: Parent’s guide – Parent Info
Peer pressure online – a parent’s guide – Parent Info
- Tech knowledge: How Children use devices at school and at home, September 2015. Pg.33
- Pace of Change report. December 2015. P.g 30
- Family Online Safety Institute (2013)