By Jesse Weinberger
Social media is a vehicle of immediacy. Your teen can instantaneously post, respond, and share. But the degree of personal exposure inherent in social media is a potential threat to your teen’s future goals. His online reputation informs outsiders about who he is as a person. So, does your teen’s social media presence reflect who he really is?
Consider this scenario. Your teen attends the Homecoming Dance during junior year. Along with the posed photos there are 30 photos and videos from the after party. Even though your son wasn’t drinking, there are photos of him next to the kid with the open beer bottle. He thinks, “No big deal, it’s not like I was drinking, right?”
This becomes a very big deal when he gets ready to apply for scholarships, college admissions, and internships. Believe it or not, a rising number of college admissions counselors and potential employers are reviewing your teen’s social media profiles to get a better sense of who they are.
In Kaplan’s 2012 survey of college admissions officers:
- 26 percent said they have visited applicants’ social networking pages
- 27 percent googled an applicant to learn more
- 35 percent said what they found negatively impacted that applicant’s admissions chances
Here are four ways to help your teen clean up social media before it matters.
1. Do posts pass the Grandma test?
What your teen posts says more about him than a resume or college application. Here’s an easy way your teens can filter their posts. Go through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and any other accounts with your teen’s name attached. Take each post one by one and ask: “Would I frame this and give it to Grandma for Mother’s Day?” If the answer is NO, delete it. Easy-peasy.
2. Think about the message.
Your teen’s profile picture is her cute bikini-shot selfie with the popped hip and the duck lips. Adorbs. Remember the “Grandma Filter”? Does she really want a college admissions counselor to use that as part of her criteria in accepting her? If her profile name on Twitter or Instagram is @sexychick1997, what message is she sending within the realm of potential employers?
3. Lock down accounts using privacy settings.
If your teen doesn’t want to delete photos or posts, he should lock down his account. College admissions counselors are able to see your photos and content when an account is open to the public. Lock it down, today. Here’s how:
- Facebook: Limit all past posts to FRIENDS only. Remove the FRIENDS OF FRIENDS option.
- Twitter and Instagram: Either delete old posts or change the username so that it’s NOT your teen’s real name.
- Twitter and Instagram: Lock down profiles to PRIVATE, closing it to the public.
4. Don’t provide a map to your teen’s online activity.
More advice for your teens. Do NOT list your Instagram profile handle on your Twitter bio, or your Ask.fm profile name on your Instragram bio. Don’t give anyone additional ways to get to know more about you other than what you’ve chosen to reveal via official channels: application, essays, scores, etc.
The best advice for your teen’s online reputation is simple: “Think before you post.” An offending photo or meme can’t embarrass your teen later if he or she doesn’t post it today. Plus it will keep him safer in the long run.
You never, ever know who is watching.
Jesse Weinberger is a social media strategist and owner of OvernightGeek University. She has been teaching Internet Safety to students, parents, teachers, and administrators for over 10 years.