As summer approaches, teens will be celebrating the end of another school year. Whether they are attending a prom or graduation parties, one thing is for sure: their digital footprint won’t take a break.
Twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year, whether they are online or not, your teen’s social media accounts are living and breathing. Even as they sleep, their online pals could be typing away from across the country or even another continent.
Exactly how well do you know your teens online friends? And what could they potentially wake up with their names (or credit cards) attached to?
The Need for Social Media Safety
Today’s teens need to be aware of the extended reach—and shelf life—of their online presence. College recruiters as well as potential employers are searching the Internet before interviewing or accepting applicants. They’re viewing not only what teens are posting, but how they interact with others.
Digital citizenship is a critical part of your teen’s social media training, especially when it comes to maintaining their online reputation. Who is responsible for this? The schools? Teachers? Parents? Students? Community?
It actually starts at home—instilling kindness and empathy offline will be the foundation that pours into their online etiquette. Then it goes to schools. More and more of them are now implementing digital citizenship classes. Common Sense Media stresses the importance of empowering students to be able to communicate and connect safely and responsibly online.
Teachers, including librarians, are independently taking time to talk with students about digital citizenship. It is not only about helping students become a better cyber-citizen, it is also about adults learning from the students.
We can’t deny that many teens will find out about apps and sites before their parents, but having these conversations with them will open the lines of communication and we can start learning from each other.
Managing Your Digital Identity
Learning to manage your online behavior, at any age, is imperative. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or student, you can be a role model for someone watching your social media conduct. How do you manage your cyber-persona? How do you behave IRL (in real life)? Hopefully you approach both with respect and kindness.
Recognizing that words matters, keystrokes count, and you have a choice of how to use them is important.
In a recent Microsoft survey regarding digital citizenship, teens and parents reported being concerned about different aspects of their online reputation, yet both recognize the importance of the digital driven world and how it can affect their future.
Among teens polled, 57% worry about getting into college; 52% worry about landing a job; and 42% are worried about being embarrassed.
Among parents polled, 54% are most concerned with fraud; 52% are concerned about being embarrassed; and 43% are concerned about their career.
The Three Cs of Digital Citizenship
As school winds down and parties wind up, remind your teen of the three C’s that matter when fostering digital citizenship:
- Content—Keep it clean. Pause before posting a debatable picture from your party on Instagram or on any other social media site. Consider whether the photo that may get 15 minutes of laughter is worth 15 years of your virtual reputation.
- Contact—Know your friends. Privacy settings are there for a reason. Use them. You don’t have to allow all your pictures for public viewing. Learn to use custom settings for the friends you personally.
- Conduct—Social media behavior counts. Be kind in every keystroke. Your behavior online will be judged by potential college admissions and future employers equally as much as what you post. As a general rule, don’t say to anyone online what you wouldn’t say to their face.
Keep in mind that your digital footprint never takes a break. You can enjoy your proms, graduations and have a spectacular summer, but always share with care on social media.
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