I have been talking a lot lately about online reputation with teens. I think it is important for youth to recognize that anything they put online and anything they do offline that gets posted online, could end up being immortalized on the World Wide Web. I advise students to start thinking about their online reputation at an early age – the earlier the better. I begin this discussion by asking them if they have ever ‘Googled’ themselves and ask them to think about what came. Is it anything good? How about something embarrassing or even inappropriate? I tell them that without a doubt others are exploring the Internet for information. Friends, adults in their lives, and future employers, among others, will search for them online and judge them and base decisions about jobs or other opportunities based on what they find out. In fact, a recent study sponsored by Microsoft found that 79% of recruiters and human resources managers review information about potential employees that is available online, and 70% said they disqualified applicants due to what they found.
I suggest that teens (and adults for that matter) work extra hard to do great things at school and in the community (e.g., making the honor roll, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, etc) so that when one does search for them, they find evidence of hard work, integrity, and civic-mindedness. This is especially important if a teen does make a mistake and posts something inappropriate online – they want to bury the bad with good things. This can also be useful if someone is cyberbullying or harassing students by posting rumors or hurtful comments about them in a way that might show up in a search. In fact it is difficult if not impossible to completely prevent someone from smearing you electronically – the best approach is to create an online reputation that emphasizes the positives and minimizes any of the negatives. What have you done lately that might be found online that others might judge you on?