Growing Up Social

Media literacy starts from the moment your kids learn to talk. We look at what parents can do to support their children in developing a healthy relationship with their social presence.


Nimmi Kanji
5 tips to help your kids manage their online reputation

First impressions are no longer just about physical appearance, attire, good eye contact and a firm handshake. Increasingly, a first impression is based on the results of a quick and easy Google search, or a scan of someone’s social media accounts. So, what can you do to help your child understand the importance of, and build a positive online reputation?

1. Help your child fully appreciate their digital legacy

Talk to your kids about what makes up their online reputation. This means anything they do on social media – pictures shared, videos posted, comments made – can be associated with their name forever. You may also wish to share real-world examples that illustrate how young people have suffered the consequences after making careless decisions online. A recent example is that of prospective Harvard students who had their acceptance letters revoked due to their online activities.

Yes, today’s youth are savvy online and can send a text message faster than a blink of an eye. But this doesn’t mean they know everything there is to know about managing their online reputation, and many do not think about how their online activities can impact others and/or their personal brand and future success.

2. Help your child define their personal brand

What does your child want to be known for? What are their core principles and beliefs? Do they live and breathe these values in both the physical and online world? Encourage your child to spend a few minutes and really think through what their personal brand is. If he/she is already using social media, you can review their accounts together and remove content that doesn’t align well with their brand. Their online image should be clear and simple and shouldn’t offend others.

3. Encourage your child to practice good online hygiene

For accounts they actively use, ensure they review the permission and privacy settings – this can give your child greater control over who sees their information and who can post to their profile. That said, it’s important to help them understand that while making social profiles private can help limit access to information, it isn’t foolproof. Privacy policies can change and screenshots can be taken. The bottom line – if something is online, it should be considered public. It’s also a good idea to ensure your child isn’t sharing private information online (their address, or full date of birth, etc.) and that they’re using strong passwords. This can all help prevent unfortunate scenarios of identity theft.

Ask your child to delete any apps/accounts they no longer use. Dormant accounts can be hacked and used for illicit purposes, unknowingly and sometimes detrimentally impacting the account holders’ online reputation.

4. Google your kids and set up Google Alerts

Visit Google and enter your child’s name in the search bar (including nick names) and scan what comes up (including images). To keep an ongoing eye on what is online about your child, set up a Google Alert (google.com/alerts) for your child’s name. If you need help removing damaging information, contact the website or app provider. If images are sexual in nature, report it at cybertip.ca.

5. Connect with your kids on social media

Download and use the apps your kids are using so you can familiarize yourself with them. You should connect with them in these apps too, so you are in a better position to monitor what they do and post online. In fact, you may wish to consider making this part of your family rules about Internet safety and social media usage – that is, your kids can only use an app if you use it too and are ‘friends’ with them in the app.

In this day and age, when everyone from potential dates, school admin staff and potential employers, are looking online to find out more about others, possibly including your child, it’s more important than ever before to help your kids effectively manage their digital footprint. Read our “Helping our kids navigate their wired worlds” guide for more information.


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