In case you were wondering, wonder no longer. Yes, someone will Google your child. And it will matter.
Be it a scholarship committee, a potential employer, a teacher, or a hoped-for University, your child’s digital footprint will be gathered and judged sooner or later.
It’s hard to accept that while your child should be carefree and frolicking through his childhood, being a child of the digital age, he now has an online “brand” to manage. And as his parent, it’s your job to teach him.
Your child’s online activity such as Facebook (if feeds aren’t set to ‘private’), Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and even blogs he comments on, will be collected and laid out by Google for others to judge. What’s funny or cool today will be “remembered” by the Internet and interpreted in a new light in the future.
What can you do? Well, if you are diligent, you can do quite a lot.
Parenting Power Tips:
- Coach along the way. One great tool is to have your child’s Facebook posts sent to your phone. The process is easy. This is a great way to keep up on what’s being said and gives you the ability to “coach” in real time. Talk to your child about the words he chooses and give him better options if he comes across rude, intolerant, or mean.
- Catch ‘em being good. It’s easy enough to gravitate toward your child’s digital missteps, but be sure to recognize what your child is doing right online. Praise him for being an encourager to others, responding well, or wielding the mad skills necessary to extinguish a conflict.
- Avoid profanity and negativity. Regardless of your child’s—or even your own—opinion of profanity, most colleges and employers will not look kindly on a person who is consistently profane or negative. Be careful.
- Keep private matters private. Some things such as a family crisis, legal issues, or a relationship dispute simply should not be shared online. While it may feel great to vent, the Internet will call up your past state-of-mind faster than you can say “Google me unemployed.” When private life events hit hard, encourage your child to meet with a friend face-to-face or to privately journal his feelings.
- Tweet leadership. Encourage your kids to be leaders online. By making the right choices—not to cuss, be rude, or negative—they can choose a higher digital road, one that will actually boost their online image. Model this leadership, encourage it, and praise it when you see it in your child.
- Be proactive on privacy and filtering. It’s one thing to Google and “find out” what your child’s online reputation is, it’s another thing to be proactive and protect it. By taking the time to use parental controls and Internet filtering, you could be closing off digital roads and relationships that could be harmful to your child’s reputation. Also, double-check that all your child’s social network settings are set to “private.”
- When in doubt, don’t. Teach your kids to listen to and heed that “small inner voice” that advises them that sending that racy photo to a girlfriend, making a snap judgment, calling names, or “going off” on another person may not be the best idea.