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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Why Parents Need to Monitor Kids’ Social Media Accounts

After Kurt Shilling and his daughter received dozens of vulgar tweets, it reminds us why it's so important to monitor our kids' social media accounts.

Retired baseball player Curt Schilling may have thought twice about sending a tweet to his daughter congratulating her on her acceptance to college if he would have known where it would lead them.

Schilling was so disturbed by the outcome of that tweet that he shared the experience in a blog post, “The world we live in… man has it changed.”

The post recounts the awful experience that Schilling and his daughter Gabby had with Twitter cyberbullies and trolls, and reminds parents everywhere why it’s so important to monitor their kids’ social media accounts and talk to them about how to protect them online.

What Schilling Learned About Social Media Bullying and Trolling

Schilling was a proud father congratulating his daughter on going to college and joining the school’s softball team. He wanted to share that pride with fans and followers.

But he got more than he bargained for when the tweets sent in response to his message went from congratulatory to downright vulgar.

The responses to Schilling’s post became filled with hateful, hurtful, and disgusting messages referencing his teenage daughter.

How Bad Can It Really Be?

Bad. We aren’t going to publish the terrible tweets that were sent to Schilling and later published on his blog. But if you don’t believe how bad it can really be, you can take a look at the tweets for yourself.

The sad truth is that this is not an uncommon situation on social media. Everyday cyberbullies and trolls send harassing and vulgar messages to people they know and people they don’t know.

Schilling admits that there are a lot of people that don’t like him as he is an outspoken conservative and former Red Sox player. But not even his decades spent living in a dorm room, hanging in a clubhouse, and playing on the field could have prepared him for what he found on his Twitter stream.

What’s In It for the Cyberbullies and Trolls?

Online harassment can be put into two categories. Psychology Today defines those categories as cyberbullying and trolling.

Cyberbullying is deliberate and repeated harmful statements or content with the purpose to:

  • get revenge
  • feel empowered
  • gain popularity
  • harass
  • be offensive
  • upset someone
  • intimidate a person

Cyberbullying is usually initiated by someone the victim knows. Trolling, on the other hand, is usually done by someone the victim doesn’t know.

“Trolls” send messages to start arguments or make people feel angry or upset with the purpose to:

  • entertain the “troll”
  • be offensive and argumentative
  • to bait the user into further dialog
  • gain recognition
  • feel powerful

In Schilling’s case, it seems to be a little of both. There were targets against him directly, and others that just seemed to stir the pot. Parents need to keep an eye out for both types of harassment as each can be equally harmful to children.

What You Can Do To Help Your Child

Sometimes it takes a parent witnessing social media bullying first hand to really understand the depths and the severity of online harassment. But through Schilling’s experience, parents can see just how important it is to monitor their kids’ social media accounts.

Parents need to stay vigilant and that means getting involved with their child’s digital life and social media world. They need to make sure that their child is not a target on social media or witnessing vulgar harassment that is sent to other users.

As a parent, you can  get involved and stay connected using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. The free app, available on iPhone and Android devices, sends parents messages anytime their child receives a direct message or is mentioned in a tweet, making it much easier to monitor online experiences and protect kids from online bullies and “trolls.”

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Teen’s Online Behavior May Indicate Real-Life Problems

Newly published research shows that a teen's online behavior can reveal a lot about what they go through and experience in real-life.

Fox News reports that a study published in Pediatrics found correlations between a teen’s online behavior and their real-life experiences and problems.

The study focused on a variety of behaviors but looked closely at teen online relationships. Research showed that 41% of the surveyed teens experienced cyber dating abuse. Those who experienced cyber dating abuse were more likely to have been linked to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and sexual assault.

Research also showed that teens who frequently use social media were more likely to frequently evaluate their bodies and have self-esteem issues. This research is important as it highlights just how much online activities impact a teen’s thoughts and actions.

To read more about how to use social media to learn more about your child, read the full article, “Online life for teens may lead to real-life problems.”

 

Parents Can’t Afford To Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

Parents Can’t Afford To Ignore Their Kids’ Social Media

To those around him, Jaylen Ray Fryberg seemed like a normal high school freshman. He was well liked and happy, played on the football team and had recently been crowned Homecoming Prince. Around family, friends and classmates, Fryberg gave off the impression that he was a typical, upbeat teen.

That’s why those who knew him were shocked to learn that Fryberg entered his high school cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates, killing one before taking his own life. That was not the Fryberg they knew.

But only after the tragic events of his death was another side of Fryberg revealed — through his Twitter account. The happy, friendly disposition that Fryberg gave off during in-person contact was starkly different than the way he appeared on Twitter. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Fryberg’s Twitter feed was filled with disturbing updates where he openly expressed anger, sadness and aggression.

While his page was filled with updates that clearly indicated the teenager was going through something really troubling, no one realized this until it was too late. Fryberg’s tragedy reminds us just how important it is for parents to connect with their children in their social media worlds in order to see all sides and spot problems early on.

Looks for Signs of Distress that May Not Be Visible In Real Life

Friends said the Fryberg they saw in person and the Fryberg they saw on Twitter seemed like two different people. On the day of his ominous final tweet, (“it won’t last…. It’ll never last….”), one of his classmates said that Frybeg was “all fine” at football practice that day.

As parents, we need to realize that how our kids act in front of us may not tell their full story. We need to keep our eyes open to underlying issues and use social media as a window into what our kids are really thinking and feeling.

Remember That Your Kids May Have More Than One Account on the Same Platform

It’s easy to set up multiple usernames on the same social media platform. So be mindful of this when reviewing your child’s account. If you notice that they are not active on the account you know about, ask them if they are using another. Pay attention to their friends and notice if they are tagging or communicating with your child at another username.

Check the Direct Messages To and From Your Child

Not all social media is public. Remember to check private messages that your child is sending and receiving. Look for communication that could be hurtful to both parties. Stopping your child from sending hurtful messages to other children is also part of your job in protecting your child from dangerous situations.

Related: Social Media, Bully and What You Can Do to Help

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late — Connect to Your Child’s Social Media Life Now

As a parent, you should connect to all of your child’s social media accounts and regularly monitor how they are using those sites. You can use a platform like MamaBear Family Safety App which to receive notifications when they get new followers and friends, easily view photos uploaded and set alerts for certain language and phrases.

It is our job as parents to know what is going on in our children’s lives offline and online. So don’t look the other way when it comes to social media and connect with your child now using a social media monitoring platform like MamaBear App which is available for both iPhones and Androids.