Posted on December 18, 2015, by Janel Patterson
There is an abundance of information communicated to students about what they shouldn’t do online. They hear a lot about the basics: Don’t be mean online, send nude photos, meet a stranger in person that you “met” online, post pictures with red Solo® cups, etc. These are critical topics because often kids don’t understand the consequences and the long-term impact of negative behavior online.
But, it’s also important for kids to know what they should be doing online.
After all, every student is going somewhere after graduation. Whether to college, the military or a job, it has become the norm for recruiters of all types to review applicants’ social media accounts to find out more about who they really are.
Here are a few basic tips for teaching kids what they should do vs. what they shouldn’t do:
Use your real name. There is value in integrity. While it has become common for kids to use an alias or their first and middle name to make it harder to be found, remember that you can be found. Search functions are sophisticated enough that changing your name isn’t going to preclude a recruiter from finding you.
Rather, it will make them question your integrity or what you have to hide when they do find you. Be authentic. Use your real name. If you want to share photos or conversations with particular groups of people versus your entire public “friend sphere,” set up a private social media account where you can create private groups of people to share selectively with and not risk shares, re-posts or tweets of that content outside the group. Frienedy is a platform designed for private group collaboration between friends, family and groups of all types.
Stay off of anonymous sites. These anonymous social media sites are still public, and pretty much anyone can find your posts. They are part of your digital footprint. There is nothing productive or constructive that comes out of using anonymous messaging apps or sites. If you are engaging anonymously, you aren’t authentic. Refer back to tip #1.
Change your perspective about what you post. This takes practice, but it’s important. Everyone takes and posts selfies, but limit them. If you are the person who uses social media to communicate every thought, such as how hungry you are for lunch, what you had for breakfast, how bored you are in Chemistry class or how much you dislike a teacher or subject, stop. The public does not need to know you sneezed. Remember that your social media profile reveals your real character. What you show there is what people will see and how they will judge you.
School spirit. Be positive or don’t say anything at all. Colleges often look at social media profiles to find out about what applicants are saying about their high schools. If you are sharing photos and comments about great things happening in your school, this says to a college admissions officer that you would likely do the same if you were a student at that college. They all want students who are going to be good stewards of their brand.
Post about topics that mean something to you. Referring back to tip #3, this is all about changing your perspective. Focus on what’s important to you, what inspires you, or a passion you have. Sports, hobbies, music, volunteer work, causes you feel strong about, or celebrating accomplishments of your friends. These are a few ideas for content with substance that will help you stand out from the crowd and illustrate character.
Connect with people you admire. Think about people who have had an impact in your life already, or those you would love to meet or to follow. Follow and connect with them. The people you follow, as well as those who follow you, reveal a lot about who you are.
If we show kids how to establish a positive digital footprint, one that will help them differentiate themselves, it is one of the best lessons we can impart to prepare them for success beyond high school.
Pursuant to a degree in international business from Illinois Wesleyan University and a 20-year career in corporate sales and management, Janel chose to leave the corporate world behind to create Frienedy.com after a personal experience with social media. She set out on a mission to create a safe, COPPA-compliant site that would accomplish two objectives: give parents a way to introduce their children to social media on their terms in a safe place, and create a whole new way to help families, classrooms, sports teams and groups of all types connect and collaborate privately in a single application. Janel is also the founder of the parenting blog, www.electronicparenting.com, dedicated to providing information that empowers parents to raise kids who are smart and savvy about their digital presence.