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?
Stated by an Administrator at Florida middle school, “It’s pretty difficult to figure out what to do. The law seems so complex. I just know that we have got to do something, because cyberbullying is leading to other problems on my campus and under my watch.” As a student I always wondered what goes through the minds of administrators of the schools dealing with cyberbullying. They are the ones dealing with the most, because finding a way to stop and avoid it is their responsible. Well to my knowledge that is whom I would figure responsible. Sometimes the administrators or the workers such as the teachers are becoming targets just as well as the students. Children and Teens are making websites talking about their teacher and cannot be punished. One boy did just this and was suspended for ten days; he later fought to sue the district for a large amount of money, because his right to free speech was violated. Now this is something no administrator or district wants to go through. So they dropped his suspension from his records, paid him $30,000 to drop the lawsuit and wrote a letter apologizing. All I could say and think was wow, because I still believe the kid was in the wrong rather done at home or school. But at the end he’s not the one to suffer, the people trying to get rid of the behavior are. This also reminds me of pictures my old classmates use to post on MySpace and Face book of our teachers. Along with tagging all of us in it so we could see how they changed it around and wrote bad things on it. I’m not saying its right, but what can be done to stop things like this from happening?
In an article from March 27, 2009, an incident is discussed in which a 14-year old girl was arrested for child pornography after posting about 30 naked pictures of herself on her Myspace page. They were intended for her boyfriend’s viewing but they were accessible by the public. She may have to register as a sex offender in accordance with Megan’s Law. What a terrible shame that lives can be ruined over thoughtless exploitation that was never meant to hurt anyone. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/14-year-old-girl-arrested...