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16 ways to improve and protect your child’s online reputation

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Make your child a strong contender in the eyes of universities and employers


Your online reputation can grow into a woolly monster if not fed and cared for properly. Whether it thrives or declines is equally dependent upon what you post, the size of your network and the people in it, and how those people respond to your posts.

While we normally advise a focused, minimalist method of sharing online, we recognize that children and teens sometimes have a more relaxed approach to raising their digital brands.

Here’s a 16-step checklist you can share with your child or use as a guide as you help him tame the beast and reclaim an online reputation that’s gone wild.

First things first: Make online privacy a priority
The health of your digital brand is strongly linked with how carefully you guard your data.

1. Lockdown your online privacy with all-in-one internet security.

The best online privacy protection includes antivirus software that catches spyware, phishing and data attacks before they further damage your struggling reputation.

A bonus: All-in-one internet security also checks your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts to make sure you’re taking advantage of their customized privacy settings that keep you safe.


2. Update your privacy settings across social platforms and apps.

Social network privacy settings change frequently, so this tactic requires constant attention.

If you use Facebook, make life easier and download this free Privacy Scanner app. Its internet monitoring alerts you to iffy permissions you’ve authorized and manages who can contact you and access your personal info. This app is a definite keeper.


3. Make your social networks smaller – waaaay smaller

It’s time to ditch the ‘friends’ who act like fiends. Cut anyone who’s been known to share inappropriate content online.

Forty per cent of employers screen social media accounts before hiring hopefuls, while 80 per cent of university admissions officers prowl Facebook during the decision-making process. They’re looking at the digital company you keep.

While you’re at it, defriend anyone that you’re not on speaking terms with. A pared-down network equals stronger privacy.

Related reading: The Risks of Posting in Social Networks

Next, the moment of truth: Get started with a search

Mobile security for Android is a must if you’re going to search your name through a smartphone or tablet. Your device may be small, but it’s a powerful computer that needs the same type of protection as your laptop or PC. Online thieves don’t care what you’re using.

Look for mobile software with safe surfing and a virus scanner to make sure you’re not risking your identity as you mend your digital life.  


4. Google your name.

Beat universities and employers to the search. It’s crucial that you find the areas for improvement before they do. 


5. Perform a reputation audit of what you discover online.

Make a 3-columned chart for the ‘positive’, ‘negative’ and ‘neutral’ results that appear after the Google search as well as what you find in your social accounts. The negative items need to be fixed immediately.  

Related reading: Mobile Privacy Uncovered: The Who, What, Why and How

Finally, the cleanup: Scrub your dirty digital footprint

Something to consider as you begin the cleanup process: Parental control software acts as another set of eyes that catch what you may have missed during the initial reputation audit.

It lets you check social network activity, content-uploading behaviour and online communications. The point is not to betray your children’s trust but to provide just enough oversight to make sure they’re making good decisions that will lead to bright futures.


6. Deactivate an account that’s beyond repair.

Only take this drastic measure if the account is riddled with unflattering content that would take weeks to clean up.


7. Delete photos and videos that are sexual, aggressive or illegal. (In other words: Nobody wants to see that.)

Although there’s no telling who’s downloaded the content from your profile, damage control dictates you remove all digital traces on your end.

Even if you’re not in the pics or participating in the ‘good times’, you still need to remove the image or video.


8. Eliminate posts that include profanity.

Institutions of higher learning are not impressed by four-lettered monosyllabic words; clean up the foul language. Going forward, post content as though your grandmother were going to read it.


9. Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.

Proofread your profile details and review posts from the last couple of months, deleting gibberish and editing anything of substance.


10. Remove negative comments left by you and others.

You’re painting yourself in the most positive light possible. Don’t let a nasty comment reflect poorly upon your character.


11.  Retire email handles that are silly or offensive.

What seems clever to a 14-year-old tends to lose its shine by the time a teen reaches 17 or 18. Use an email address that includes your name or some respectable variation thereof.

And if you’re in hardcore reputation-fixing mode, it’s time to follow ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’ rule. The more strategic, positive posts you publish, the better your chances in ‘submerging’ negative content you can’t delete:


12. Upload images highlighting accomplishments, hobbies and constructive relationships.

Employers and admissions authorities want to know more than just your GCSEs. Give them a glimpse into your life as a footy star, world traveller or a proud daughter.


13. Replace childish profile photos with mature ones.

Don’t sanitize your profile to the point of removing all remnants of personality. Just reflect on whether your picture conveys a message that appeals to adults in the professional world. 


14. Share videos featuring volunteer work.

The more good deeds you share online, the easier it is to keep bad deeds from popping up on the first page of search engine results.


15. Join online groups that support nonprofits close to your heart.

Showing commitment to a cause through positive comments proves you’re interested in issues that are bigger than yourself.


16. Make a LinkedIn profile.

If you’re 18 or older, creating a LinkedIn profile is a positive way to frame your work experience and build a professional online network.

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