Fact: Teens spend more time than ever before online.
Fact: Teens know a lot more about technology than most adults.
Fact: Teens have the power to build a positive online reputation.
Posting something online can be compared to getting a tattoo; once you press “send” it’s out there for the world to see. Sometimes, like a tattoo, the online content we post can be covered up or removed. However, that too, can be time consuming, costly, and painful. This is why we are constantly reminding our kids, and especially our teenagers, to think before they post. It’s also why we need to start having conversations early about privacy and reputation.
Let's talk privacy. I think privacy is running away from us faster than we know. A recent PEW Study revealed that 81% of parents of teens give too much information to online advertisers. We have to set an example for our children. Do your kids know never to give out their full name, address, social security number, phone number or other private information online? I know it sounds simplistic, but an average of over 500,000 children have their identity stolen each year.
Familiarize yourself with the types of information being collected on the sites your kids use and have a conversation with them about what is (and isn’t okay to share). Let’s remind our kids they are in control of their information and have the power to decide what the Internet knows about them. (If you aren’t sure where to start, here are four free privacy tools to consider.)
Let’s talk reputation. How to differentiate between public and private isn’t the only conversation we need to have when teaching our children to think before they press “send”. We also need to talk about online reputation. Do your kids understand that they are painting a picture about themselves with every interaction they have online – pictures that can easily be found by college recruiters or future employers? Telling them this isn’t meant to scare them. Rather, it’s meant to serve as a reminder to pay attention to what they are doing. It can also serve as a reminder for how much opportunity they have to turn their reputation into a masterpiece! They get to decide what the world sees online and they have the chance to make it something wonderful.
I know a lot parents feel stressed by the technology that’s out there and these types of conversations. From social media and apps to music players and video games, the world of cyberspace is massive and grows larger every day. But, it’s absolutely critical that parents try to stay ahead their kids technically speaking. I know sometimes that’s not realistic so, if not ahead of our kids, let's at least try to catch up. If your child or teen is on a website or social networking site you are not familiar with, learn about it! Think of it as if your child going to visit a new neighbor. Wouldn't you want to meet them and know who they are hanging with beforehand?
While technology absolutely has its risks, we can empower our children to understand and overcome them. Parents and kids can work together to build important skills. That way, though the Internet never sleeps, we can give them the tools to succeed and we can all sleep more peacefully...
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.