Everyone in their lifetime has experienced the affects that can happen from a bad online status. Whether we decide to share our unpopular opinions on a bad review, degrade someone in public or publish a controversial video, it can be life altering. These negative effects of social media can be detrimental to our child's digital reputation. The argument that individuals have is how to go about it for kids under 18. Official laws, colleges, and even career paths do not support or distinguish between underage mistakes. There are a few things we can do to protect our Digital Reputations.
When our world places more emphasis on our digital content, the best thing our kids can do is boost their positive content. What does that mean? For our kids, we need to make sure that when we search their online profiles, the top results are ones that reflect positively on them. Think of it like personal advertising or establishing a public relationship with the online world. The more we see positive content and images of someone, the less likely we are to believe they are capable of those alarming things.
Another search trick is having our kids post more content. Why? When we search for things in Google or Bing what we are shown is whatever content is viral or popular at the time. For example, one of my viral search terms happens to be "moms porn" (major eye-roll) since a few of my most popular posts are ones that talk about preventing pornography. However, the more positive content I post on digital natives, parent tech coaching, etc. on all my online platforms, the better posts which are shown when you search my name or website. In the hacking world, we call this burying information. Why not deleting it? The simple explanation is because no amount of information can be truly deleted from the online world.
Burying Information the process of making it extremely difficult to find digital content about a topic, person or organization; usually criminal or incriminating in nature.
Along with having our kids post more positive content, it helps if the content has a "brand" to it. What do I mean? I mean if our children have 5 things they always share like quotes, parties, school events, friends and family, they have established an image online of what people associate with them. So if someone takes over your child's account and posts something totally off the wall, it's unbelievable. No, your child doesn't need to be an influencer or online star with millions of followers, but the concept is still the same.
We can explain it to our kids like building an online resume. You don't post job experiences on a resume that aren't suited to the job. Or bad information. The same things should apply to our kids when looking at their online profiles.
Our kids need to know that people believe what they want to believe and humans make mistakes. We are not a perfect race or culture. We have all done something stupid, posted something we shouldn't have or seen something that wasn't true. Showing our mistakes to our children and how we have built from them is also a great idea. As parents we can be our kids biggest supporters for things they're doing right and their biggest comforters when they do something wrong.
Something else we have done with a few of my clients is establish identity circles; including both adults and children. What is an identity circle? It's a group of people that assist your child in regulating what is posted about them online. The best analogy I can give is "private investigators" for your children that warn us when something alarming, risky or reputable slander may have been shared. They comment, document, and inform individuals about how this information can be shared. This way if something exists out there, when our children go to an interview they can share this information. If an our child's potential employeer, college, or other professional has proof, references and verified reputable sources the validity, nature, etc. of such content, it can go a long way.
Identity Circles a team of reputable individuals who document and record instances where your or your child's identity may be compromised; individuals whose job is to verify and document your child's identity in a positive way.
In my professional experience, many institutions and organizations are willing to overlook certain mishaps our children have as long as they have a "heads up". For them it's also a way for them to be prepared for issues that may come up if our children are accepted into their organizations. We don't need to just trust our children; we must be prepared to help them fight the battles they can't see.**
And while we may not be able to change the out come of the posts, we can definitely move to have it illegal, racist or bigotry to judge an individual based upon one or a few controversial posts made underage. Currently we have various organizations fighting for children's rights and digital laws to protect them from the harsh judgements of careers, colleges and individuals online. Our cyberbullying laws have made huge progress in the last decade. However, our college and career hiring criteria could use a major overhaul. We can help our children through this by changing laws in our country, state, city, and place of future occupancy. It will be a huge change for our children if we can have colleges place guidelines for when they have made a mistake they can't take back.
These are just a few of the legal issues and ideas I have that nations should consider to adopt. As parents it's a very good idea for us to start the ball rolling on this. If you or your child have been a victim of such actions, I suggest talking to a lawyer about possible legal actions you can take. There are ways you can protect your child without having to change their identity. We must send the world a clear message that not all content online should be shared or published; especially when it can damage our children's futures forever.
The last and most important thing we can do is educate our kids before it happens. We must teach them how to act online, show them the outcomes of bad decisions, and what they can do if it does happen to them. If they're the ones being accused of doing such actions, take them seriously. Investigate them fully, even if you trust your child. Laws change all the time and in today's world those laws will have an effect on innocent persons as well. Above all, we must be vigilant in monitoring and showing our kids how to act online.
**In cases of illegal materials shared, please consult legal counsel. I am not a lawyer or soliciting legal advise. Please consult with someone who is.