Our reputations precede us for better or worse, and in today’s world that includes the reputation we build for ourselves online (yes, even at an early age). Once something is out there, it’s out there forever and that can impact future jobs, colleges, and important relationships down the line. And since teens are more “in the moment,” it’s crucial that we teach them to think before they post because it can have a bigger impact than they realize. This is something we discuss in depth with the teens and tweens who take our newest online course, A Young Man’s Guide to Manners. There are so many things to cover with teens, but keep reading reading for 5 ways parents can help teens protect their online reputations — especially when it comes to TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, gaming, and simply texting in general.
HOW TO HELP TEENS PROTECT THEIR ONLINE REPUTATION
1. Ask teens where they see themselves in 5-10 years.
This is an exercise learned from Mary Flo Ridley from The Birds and The Bees that really helps teens look at the long-term consequences of poor decisions during the adolescent years. Maybe their dream is to attend a certain university, to get a Lacrosse scholarship, or to pledge the same sorority as mom and grandma. After they tell you where they see themselves in 5-10 years, ask teens what kinds of choices could prevent them from reaching those dreams and goals. One of those things could be a bad choice on social media, — a picture they post or a video they make. Ask them: Do you want something you do at 13 years old to prevent you from getting to do these things? This is a good conversation to have when giving a child a phone or social media for the first time!
2. Show the consequences of making bad choices online.
We’ve all read the stories of people losing scholarships and jobs because of something they posted online. Share some of these real life stories with your teens because they are impactful! (Note: We give many powerful examples in our online video course for tween and teen boys, A Young Man’s Guide to Manners, and our teen girls’ class as well)
3. Teach them that it’s more than just the photos and videos they post.
Tweens and teens assume as long as they don’t post or share inappropriate photos that they are okay. But that’s not the case! So many more things on social media and online can affect their online reputation. From the music they choose for a TikTok to the accounts they follow to the comment they make on a friend’s page, nothing is truly private and many things can affect your online reputation down the road. We go over all the things parents often don’t think to cover in A Young Man’s Guide to Manners and our teen girls’ course.
4. Challenge them to have the same integrity online as they do in person.
An important discussion to have with teens is reminding them the Golden Rule applies not only to people around us but people online as well. Even people with whom we disagree! Teens witness so many adults treating people rudely online, so it’s important to discuss why character applies to our online communities as well. And just because someone is a celebrity or has million of YouTube views, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat them with respect and kindness, too.
5. Remind them that while the world may not have grace for mistakes, you will always love them.
It’s also important to remind teens that while they may lose opportunities because of bad choices online, they will never lose your love. The thought of one bad choice at 12 or 13 affecting your life can seem overwhelming to already overwhelmed teens, so it’s a good time to remind them that no matter what you will always be there for them. And that it’s so important that they come to you for help when navigating the tricky world of technology. Especially if they ever receive anything inappropriate as it could have legal ramifications.
At the end of the day, our social media profiles are an extension of who we are. You never know who might stumble upon it, so instilling this in our teens and tweens is so important. Again, we cover all of this and so much more in A Young Man’s Guide to Manners — our online course for tween and teen boys. The course is perfect for boys ages 11-17 and is a quick watch, engaging, and FUN! Registration closes soon so learn more here, and be sure you are on our email list to be notified when we relaunch our girls’ class, too: Etiquette Essentials!