Maintaining a positive digital profile is essential for our children who have grown up using the web. But when it comes to helping teenagers find their way in the online world, it can be hard for parents to be sure of the best approach.
How do you keep today's tech-savvy young people safe, while allowing and encouraging them to enjoy the benefits of engaging across social media? What steps can you take to help your teenagers create the online CV and presence employers and admissions tutors are increasingly looking for, rather than lots of tagged drunk pictures and emoticons?
"Today's teenagers are the first generation to have grown up with online in their lives and for them and us as parents, learning how to manage the way they present themselves online is an essential life skill," says Simon Wadsworth, author of A Guide to Managing Your Teenager's Personal Information Online
"It's about giving teenagers the tools they need to promote themselves sensibly and safely. It's very easy to make mistakes in the online world – and they can have lasting consequences or damage a young person's long-term prospects."
What's Your Teenager Doing Online?
Understand how your teenager is presenting themselves online by following these key steps and carrying out an online 'audit'.
• Search for your teenager's name online, along with their home town, school or club, and see what appears – if any of their social media posts show up in the searches, advise them to change their privacy settings to 'friends' only
• Assess what different types of devices your teenager has access to, for example, games consoles, computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and web cams, and ensure these are securely managed.
• Know which social networking sites your teenager is using, for example Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and online chat and help them optimise privacy and security settings.
Help your teenager understand the online word...
• Explain that their online reputation is determined by what they post online, as well as what their peers post. It is essential they learn how to manage their profiles responsibly.
• Help them to understand their digital footprint – the trail they leave behind every time they use the internet.
• Explain the consequences of reacting too quickly online and making ill-advised posts.
• The golden rule is that you should only say something online if you would be willing to say it to someone in person.
• Certain topics, for example drugs and alcohol, should be avoided.
• Deleting posts, images and comments after the event may be too late if others have already circulated the content – so think carefully about what you post.
• Make sure they know how to set privacy settings on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. They should be set to 'friends only' so that their content has a limited audience.
• Establish basic rules for internet use and support them to keep their social media profiles clean.
• Advise them never to share 'private' information like phone numbers and addresses publicly and to turn off the GPS 'check-ins' on their mobile devices.
• Monitor how many hours your teenager spends on the internet each day/week. Place their computer and console in a family area of the home, if it helps to prevent excessive or inappropriate usage. Depending on your child's age, you may want to set up parental controls.
Positive steps – help them create the right impression
• Encourage them to create an online profile that reflects who they are, their interests, hobbies and experiences. Inspire them to set up social media across platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.
• Help them purchase their own domain name e.g. YourName.com and to create their own personal blog or website.
• Explain that images they use of themselves online, in any scenario, should be ones that they would want a potential recruiter or admissions officer to see. Advise them to remove unwanted tags on unsuitable posts or images.