Table Talk Discussion: How To Talk to Your Kids About Their Digital Reputation

Find out how talking to your kids about shaping and managing their digital reputation may impact their ability to get into college.

Your child’s digital reputation is more important now than ever as it may affect their ability to hold a job, play on a team, and even get into college.

Here are a few important talking points to review with your preteen and teen as you discuss the impact their digital reputation can have on the rest of their lives.

Your Digital Reputation Starts Now

A “digital reputation” is the image you project and content you create online. It  is shaped by what  you post and the way you act online. It also includes what others post about you and all of the  information that can be found about you through search. It is your “personal brand” online, and may be the only impression someone has about you if they don’t know you personally.

In the current landscape of technology and social media, the digital footprint of your online life starts early, and, more importantly, stories, photos and other online information about you, can last forever.

It is never too early to start thinking about, and actively managing, your digital reputation, or your child’s,  as it will  shape how people perceive you, both online and offline, and can directly impact your personal life as well as your professional life. or in the case of children, their school and young social life.

Your Digital Reputation Can Get You Kicked Off a Team or Fired From a Job

Many preteens and teens think only their friends are reading the content they post on social media. They may be surprised to learn that their, teacher,  bosses, coaches and their friends parents are watching too.

A baseball player at Bloomsburg University learned that the hard way when he posted an offensive tweet about female Little League World Series pitcher Mo’ne Davis.

His coaches and the school noticed his tweet and dismissed the college sophomore from his team.

One tweet changed the course of this player’s entire collegiate experience. He later said, “An example that one stupid tweet can ruin someone’s life and I couldn’t be more sorry about my actions last night.”

Your Digital Reputation Can Impact Your Ability to Get Into College

Preteens and teens need to think about the wide audience that can see what they post online and remember that audience includes people they don’t know and may need to have a favorable impression of you in the future.

In some cases, college admissions professionals are researching applicants online and using what they find online to judge students and decide if they would be a good representation of the college.

According to a Kaplan study, 12% of college admission applicants were rejected because of what admissions counselors saw on social media. Imagine your child working hard to get the grades and scores to apply to great colleges only to be denied because of some errant posts or photos on their social media pages.

What Will Make Your Digital Reputation Look Bad

Colleges, businesses, and teams don’t want to form relationships with individuals who have a bad reputation online. A few ways to build a bad reputation include the following behaviors.

  • No Filter on posts or tweets: saying anything and everything that is on your  mind
  • Bragging: gloating, bragging or appearing very self-focused
  • Negative Chat: using social media as a place to vent frustrations and show anger
  • Bullying: saying hurtful or mean comments about others
  • Questionable Photos: each photo is part of an online reputation, even if meant in fun
  • Bad Language: obviously, swearing or discriminatory language should not be used online

How To Make Your Digital Reputation Look Good

On the other side, colleges, businesses, and teams do want to form relationships with individuals that can maintain a professional and positive position on social media through the following habits.

  • Be Mindful of Who Is Listening and Searching About You (It’s Everyone): A good rule of thumb is to not post anything that you wouldn’t want to be published on the front page of a newspaper.
  • Use Your Privacy Settings: If you want to share personal photos with close family and friends, be vigilant about setting your privacy settings. But know that anything you post online, even private things, can be shared.
  • Monitor What Others Post About You: Keep an eye on the photos and posts that you are tagged in. You are responsible for monitoring the photos and posts that relate to you.

A parent’s job doesn’t end after talking to their kids about their digital reputation.

Managing an online reputation is a big job, and kids need continual guidance as they learn the boundaries of social media etiquette and conduct. Parents should remain involved in their children’s social media world by monitoring their accounts and directing their behavior toward appropriate and productive habits that will help them, not hinder them in the future.

Parents can easily stay connected using the free iPhone and Android app MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™ which easily syncs a child’s social media stream with their parent’s account and allows parents to see and help manage what is on their social media, even what others post about them.

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Table Talk Topic: Are You Doing Your Child’s Allowance All Wrong?

Money is a topic that parents don’t frequently discuss with their children. But financial responsibility is conversation that all parents should have with their kids, even at an early age.

Money is a topic that parents don’t frequently discuss with their children. Whether they think it is inappropriate, unnecessary, or irrelevant, many parents just don’t see the value in talking about monetary value with kids, especially preschoolers.

But financial responsibility is conversation that all parents should have with their kids, even at an early age.

Teaching young kids about money can help them make more responsible financial decisions as they enter adulthood, according to Ron Lieber, author of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money.

The time for your kids to make major financial decisions may not be that far down the road as many teenagers make six-figure decisions regarding college and student loans. So, take time to talk to your kids about financial best practices and allow them to put those lessons into practice by setting up a fair and meaningful allowance plan.

Allowance Mistakes To Avoid

Giving children an allowance helps them understand the value of a dollar and the work needed to earn money. But that point can only be conveyed if allowance best practices are put into place.

Many parents negate the benefits of allowance by making the following mistakes:

  • starting an allowance plan too late
  • giving too little money
  • giving too much money
  • giving allowance frivolously (not tying allowance to chores or rewards)
  • giving too little responsibility in exchange for allowance
  • inconsistency
  • not properly explaining the value of money

Use the following tips to make sure your kids get the most out of their allowance plan.

When To Start

While it will be different for each family, here are a few milestones where implementing an allowance plan is appropriate.

When preschool starts. Research shows that by preschool, kids are able to discern the difference between wants and needs — making them capable of understanding how money is spent.

When kids start asking about money. Don’t skirt the issue if your kids bring up money. Use it as a way to begin the conversation.

When the tooth fairy comes. Make sure to have a conversation about money before giving kids money as gifts and rewards.

How Much To Give

A family’s financial situation will impact the amount of money a parent can give as allowance. But when possible, Lieber recommends giving a dollar per week per year of age.

To give that some context, that is about:

  • $260/year for a 5-year-old
  • $780/year for a 15-year-old

This is an easy formula for figuring out an appropriate amount for each age group and will stop you from giving too much or too little.

How To Teach Money Management

Don’t just hand over money and expect your child to figure out how to manage it on their own.

Explain how they can use the money and suggest that they divide it into three categories.

  1. Spend
  2. Save
  3. Give

Spending helps kids see what they can get in return for what amounts (and the amount of work put forth to earn the money). It will teach them to be thrifty and modest in their spending.

Saving shows kids how long it takes to build a reserve for unexpected expenses or expensive items and teaches them patience in an on-demand world.

Giving helps kids discover the value of generosity and working in order to help others, not just to buy things.

Talking about money at an early age and throughout your child’s development will help turn your kids into more financially responsible adults. It’s just one of the valuable conversation you can have with you family around the dinner table.

If you are looking for even more dinner discussion ideas, check out MamaBear’s complete Table Talk Topics Series.

Recommended Reading:

  1. Helping Your Teen Avoid Risky Online Behavior
  2. The Gift of Giving
  3. Expressing Gratitude

Table Talk Topic: Helping Your Teen Avoid Risky Online Behavior

Stopping your child from engaging in risky online behavior may start with one thing -- a good dinner table discussion.

Stopping your child from engaging in risky online behavior may start with one thing — a good dinner table discussion.

A recent study by Prof. Gustavo Mesch, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Haifa, found that adolescents were less likely to engage in risky online behavior when they had a strong emotional bond with their family.

Children who have open and frequent discussions with their parents about their online behavior tend to participate in less risky behavior. On the other hand, adolescents were more likely to engage in risky behaviors when their parents simply monitored their behavior behind their back without including the children in educational and behavioral discussions about their online life.

The study, which included 495 children aged 10-18, confirms that having an open dialog with your kids may be the best way to proactively protect them. So use your time at the dinner table as an opportunity to discuss online dangers and safety habits with your child.

What To Do

Review risky behaviors and dangers.

Kids may not know what online behavior is acceptable, so review what actions are risky. Consider sharing stats and stories that show how dangerous the internet can be, and make sure your children know it is unacceptable to:

  • Add strangers to their follower lists
  • Interact with strangers
  • Disclose personal information on public forums and to strangers (i.e. full name, address, phone number, banking information, school name, when family will be away from the house, etc.)
    • 50% of teenagers have a public profile that is viewable by anyone on the internet
  • Agree to meet friends only known online in person

Ask about how their friends act online.

Mesch’s study found that kids were more likely to engage in risky online behavior when they thought their friends would approve of it. Adolescents frequently mimic the behaviors of their peers so discuss what your child and their friends are doing and seeing online.

Instill trust.

Researchers reported that “… families that knew how to establish a relationship of trust among family members reduced risky behavior.” So, throughout your conversations with your child, remind them that you trust their judgment and believe they will make the right decisions.

Pay attention to the boys just as much as the girls.

According to the study, parents were more likely be concerned about their daughters than their sons when it came to online safety. But the study found that boys are actually more likely to engage in risky behavior online. Give equal attention to boys and girls when dealing with the subject.

Related: Parents Can’t Afford to Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

What NOT To Do

Give a lecture.

It’s important to have a dialog that has two sides. The goal of your conversation should be for both parties to share and learn. Children learn about online risks and how to protect themselves. Parents learn about how their children and their peers act online. Most importantly parents should ask questions and allow their children to ask questions of them during this discussion.

Make accusations and assumptions.

Avoid accusing your child of behaving badly online if you have been checking their online activity. It will only push them toward bad behavior because they will think you don’t understand or trust them.

Don’t sneak behind their back.

Having an open conversation eliminates the need for you to sneak behind your child’s back in order to monitor their online behavior. During your discussion, explain to your child that as parents, it is your responsibility to be involved in their online activity and safety.

Be up-front about your plan to get involved by using a non-spyware family safety tool that is intended to protect, not infiltrate. By having an open discussion and explaining your motives, your child will be more receptive and understanding of why you need to connect with them in their online lives.

Review the features and download MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™ app to both of your devices to show them how you can work together to protect and connect your family and create a safer online environment. The Mama Bear app is available for both iPhone or Android devices.


Table Talk Topic: Sticking to a New Year’s Resolution

Setting resolutions is a way to start to create lifelong habits. Enjoy it and use it as a way to improve your future and grow closer to your family.

The earlier kids learn to identify and set goals, the more likely they’ll continue to set and achieve goals in the future. Start teaching your kids how to create and achieve valuable goals early on by setting fun, manageable New Year’s resolutions.

How to Help Your Kids Pick a Resolution 

Do it together. Discuss and set your resolutions as a family. It’s easier to stick to a plan when you have the support of your loved ones, so make setting resolutions a fun family event around the dinner table. It will help you accomplish your goals and have accountability among everyone. Not to mention you can build closer bonds by supporting the goals and interests of your spouse and kids.

Explain what a resolution is. Before you start picking resolutions, describe them in a way that your kids will understand. Modern Parents Messy Kids has a great printable family New Year’s resolution sheet that puts resolutions in terms kids can understand by leading with phrases like:

  • I want to try….
  • I want to stop…
  • I want to continue to…

Make suggestions, but don’t make requirements. It’s important to show your kids that they are doing this for themselves. So, help guide them, but don’t completely direct them. Give suggestions, but don’t insist that they choose a resolution you want them to take.

Make a big list. Have fun with it and make a long list. Then pick one or two good ones.

Be specific. In a article, clinical psychologist Robin Goodman, Ph.D., suggests breaking down broad resolutions into concrete, easy-to-do steps.

  • DON’T say: improve my grades. DO say: study an extra 30 minutes per weekday.
  • DON’T say: eat better. DO say: eat a piece of fruit at lunch every day.
  • DON’T say: I’ll help mom more. DO say: help mom with folding the laundry on Sundays.

Which Resolutions Are Good For Kids

As you and your family make goals for the year, suggest categories you can focus on.

  • Productivity Goals (i.e. spend less time play video games, stop watching reruns of shows you’ve already seen)
  • Health Goals (i.e. exercise and play more, stop drinking sodas and sugary drinks, walk to school instead of driving/riding, brush teeth twice a day)
  • Finance Goals (i.e. saving 50% of allowance, finding an after school job)
  • Educational Goals (i.e. take an online course, read two books per month, improve a letter grade in a class)
  • Community/Philanthropy Goals  (i.e. tutor at a local library, participate in a charity walk or event, help an elderly neighbor with yard work/taking out trash)
  • Better Habit Goals (i.e. go to bed at a reasonable time, turn off the lights when you leave a room, put dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of sink)

Bonus Resolutions for Parents: Consider your kids when setting your goals. Set long-term financial and health resolutions that protect them.

Plan for your financial future by setting up investments and savings accounts. Retain proactive health insurance plans that will provide sufficient funds if you or your children get sick. We suggest using ACA Insurance Services to find affordable, responsible family plans.

And of course, be proactive about your own health. Your kids need you to live a long, healthy life so set goals to protect and maintain your body and mind.

How to Help Your Kid Stick to Their Resolution

The best way to help your child reach their goal is to reach your own. So, work on it together.

Display your resolutions where you can see them. Creating a habit is about repetition so display your goals in a location of your house where you will walk past it frequently to help remind you and reinforce your goal.

Hold each other accountable. Ask your kids to tell you if they see you breaking your resolution. If they are allowed to catch and call out your follies, they will be more receptive to you doing the same to them. Teach them that holding each other accountable is not about blaming or tattling, but rather supporting and guiding.

Make it a tradition. Have fun with it so it’s something your kids look forward to. Make it an occasion and enjoy your favorite foods while making your resolution list. Or add a unique twist that makes it extra special like dressing up, decorating, enjoying a cake or dessert, or making a fancy resolution board. Then review last year’s resolutions and reward each other for accomplishing their goals.

Related: Table Talk Topic: Expressing Gratitude

Setting resolutions is a way to start to create habits that last a lifetime. Enjoy it and use it as a way to improve your future and grow closer to your family. For more ideas on dinner discussion ideas that can help your family connect, check out our series of Table Talk Topics.