Guest blog_082814This guest blog post is a part of our cyberSAFE blog series focusing on back-to-school security, privacy and identity topics. It comes to us from Sue Scheff, author and family internet safety advocate. She is the founder and president of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E.) and has been helping to educate parents on cyberbullying awareness and safe online practices for teens since 2001.

Making smart cyber choices today is as important as your GPA.

As children are online now more than ever, it’s important to realize that your child’s digital image is their future. Your child’s online reputation determines what college they get into and where they’ll work in the future. Today, 98 percent of employers run an Internet search on applicants and if they find a negative online presence, 77 percent of those employers will not invite the applicant in for an interview.

College recruiters are reporting nearly the same statistics. They are putting your child’s name through an Internet wash-cycle, and how it spins out will determine if your child secures a spot at a college of their choice. As we start the new school year, we have to remember that every keystroke and photo posted in cyberspace is public and permanent – there is no rewind online.

Becoming a Cyber-Smart Citizen
Digital citizenship restarts every day as you power-up your smartphone or connected device. To help your teen better navigate the rough waters of social media, here’s a look at some of the golden rules of cyber-smart citizens:

  • Over-sharing is a common mistake that many people of all ages make on social media. Be selective and smart about what you share.
  • Prior to posting a comment, photo or video – you need to consider the following: is what you’re posting helpful, kind or necessary? Or is it something you may regret later?
  • Check your privacy settings on all social media sites. Make this a weekly habit.
  • Who is in the comments/photos/videos? If you are posting a picture of other people, did you get their permission?
  • Tag and share with care. Treat others as you want to be treated online.
  • Social media is not a scrapbook. Don’t use it as a diary.

Friending and Unfriending Guidelines
In addition to these golden rules, it’s important for teens to evaluate who they are connecting with online. You are judged by who you hang with, online and offline. Here are some steadfast rules when it comes to “friending” and “un-friending” online:

  • If you have a friend that is posting questionable comments or pictures on your social media sites, don’t be afraid to unfriend them.
  • Just because someone is friends of friends of someone you know, it doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them virtually. Cyber criminals can use this tactic to steal your identity.
  • Keep this in mind: quality beats quantity on social media.

Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
There are lines that should never be crossed on social media. Empower your teen to know how to report digital abuse. Here’s how:

  • Do learn where how to report abuse on each social media platform.
  • Do tell a parent or an adult if you are a victim of online abuse.
  • Don’t engage with a cyberbully.
  • Don’t stay in chat rooms or on websites that make you feel uncomfortable.

Your child’s digital trail is the path to their future. It is our job as parents to help them protect and maintain their good name. A great reminder to all students is a New York Times article that ran last year: They Loved Your GPA Until They Saw Your Tweets. One of the most important things about social media that teens should never forget is that social media is not a diary, scrapbook or venting machine.If you are having a bad day, stay off of technology.

In addition to securing your teen’s online reputation by encouraging positive, smart actions, you can also inform your teen of the cyber security issues at stake. They can secure their identity by never giving out their account password or smartphone passcode to anyone. A best friend today could easily become a frenemy tomorrow. Only parents should have passwords.

Keep in mind: you never get a second chance to make a first impression – especially online.

For more information and tips on raising digital citizens at NCSA’s website.