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Once upon a time, kids could be kids. They could do the silly things that kids do — make inappropriate comments, appear in and take ridiculous photos — and only their very close friends, and maybe their family, would be any the wiser. Unfortunately those quaint days of yore are long gone. Today nearly everything a young person (or any of us, for that matter) says or does is chronicled for the world to see on an assortment of social media sites ranging from Instagram, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Yik Yak and more. Silly and inappropriate (and sometimes worse) acts become a part of a child’s digital reputation (a.k.a. their “digital footprint”) forever, and that’s a really long time. It seems unfair that kids today live under the looking glass well before their brains are prepared for this scrutiny. The brain’s capacity for ethical and critical thinking doesn’t happen until kids are about 12 years old, and more importantly, the part of the brain responsible for judgment isn’t finished developing until its owner is about 25 years of age. That’s why many car rental companies don’t even rent vehicles to anyone under this age. Yet most kids, if not all, are cruising the web well before they are in their mid-20’s. Here are three reasons why online reputation management is so important:

  1. A Kaplan Test Prep 2013 survey of college admissions officers found that the percentage who say they Googled an applicant (29%) or visited an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them (31%) had risen to their highest levels yet.

  2. 94% of HR executives used social media for recruiting workers in 2013, which was up more than 10% from the 83% who used social recruiting in 2010.

  3. Juveniles who use social media to make threats or to harass can be held accountable for their acts, for example a student in Alabama was arrested for making a threat on the social media site, Yik Yak. That’s not going to make him very popular with his friend’s parents.

Of course your 11-year-old isn’t going to care two marbles about these facts. That’s why it’s your job to arm yourselves with the tools and skills needed to help kids manage their online reputations, at least until they are old enough to do it for themselves. We’ve tried to make this easy for busy parents by putting together a short, self-paced, course about Online Reputation Management (yep, it’s online). In a couple easy lessons that can be viewed on any device (between soccer practice and piano lessons), this course equips you with usable skills and techniques to safeguard your own, and your entire family’s, reputation online.

There’s also a ton of free info in our CyberWise Reputation Learning Hub, and the always-updated CyberWise News Wise page. In our newly interconnected world it’s vital for parents to learn how to safeguard their kids. Because nobody wants that silly picture of Junior keeping him from being the best online self he can be.

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