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Everything we post online—and everything that others post about us—contributes to our permanent, digital reputation. While this is good news when the information is positive, it can be disastrous when negative or inappropriate comments or photos find their way online, because there is no erase button on the Internet! It is important to help kids understand that everything online is persistent, searchable, replicable, and can be viewed by vast invisible audiences [1] (Click to Tweet). In other words… that photo they posted of themselves partying with a lampshade on their head? . . . it stays in the digital stratosphere forever, can be searched for and found by anyone and everyone. It can be copied, shared, and viewed by strangers around the world. Ouch! That can hurt when applying for college or a job.

On the other hand, creative projects, awards, and documentation of service experiences can be an inspiration to other students and  go a long way in setting yourself apart from other applicants.

While young people can’t be expected to fully understand the enormity of all these consequences (who can for that matter?), it is important for families to talk about how to manage their online reputations and to agree on family guidelines.

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[1] boyd, danah. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


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