Many of us, particularly those of us who are parents, understand just how impactful the internet and social media has become.  By a similar token, we also understand the impact of how we appear online, i.e. our online reputations, has become to both our professional and personal lives.  

Our online reputations, or more precisely, what appears on the first page for our name – whether that’s negative or positive – influences whether we get a certain job or not; it influences our dating lives; and influences the perception we carry within our local and broader communities.

With all that’s at stake, the significance of one’s online reputation yields a question: when should we begin teaching our children about the impact of their online reputations? And when should we begin giving them the tools and knowledge to protect their online reputations?  After all, many times, what children and teenagers do or say online – particularly on social media – will stay with them and affect their reputations for years to come.

Reinforcing this point, this month a Digital Childhood report led by the University of Southampton recommended that teenagers be given online reputation management lessons, particularly for the purposes of their future employment chances.   The report also noted that children under 5 should be entirely banned from using the internet without parental supervision.

Alarmingly, studies have also shown that 49 percent of teens are unconcerned that their online behavior may negatively impact their futures.  

This is a number that may make it all the more imperative to teach or remind your teenager of some of these basic, but all too important reputation management tips:

1.  Teenagers should never post online or on social media photos that are questionable in nature, such as photos that show a teenager holding a handgun.  If they think that a particular photo is questionable, they should ask for guidance from their parents.

2. Teenagers should not in any way write threats online, either to other students, teachers or other organizations or bodies.

3. On social media, teenagers should only friend or connect with people that they know and trust.  

4.  As much as possible, teenagers should keep an eye on their social media privacy settings and keep these settings as private as possible.  It’s also good to regularly double-check privacy settings to make sure they are as strict and private as possible.

Matt Earle

Founder & President

Matt Earle, Founder of Reputation.ca, is a leading Canadian expert on online reputation management with over 15 years of hands on experience working in the space. Mr. Earle’s educational background includes an H.BSc from the University of Toronto and certification as a Google Professional. His expertise has been acknowledged through national television appearances on CBC, PBS and CTV, being a guest host on CBC radio, and numerous quotes in print and online media.