This post is an excerpt from our Digital Citizenship Conference event in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for educators and parents to openly discuss issues and solutions for helping students in the digital world. All of the content from the Digital Citizenship Conference is available as a Virtual Replay Ticket.
Here are the online safety experts who contributed to this blog:
Here are some key takeaways from the How to Audit a Student’s Online Presence panel:
Avoiding it is not the answer. Your student is going to have an online presence whether they like it or not—one that colleges and future employers will search—so they should be taking positive actions like building strong profiles, learning red flags to avoid and making use of our “green zone” apps in order to shine online.
- Start a dialog with your kids—today
- Be consistent
We’ve given you a lot of tips how. You’ll need to take a bit of time to educate yourself, learn how to find out about your tween or teen’s online footprint with Footprint Friday, and understand what’s at stake. Then you’re ready to start talking with your kids. We have great tools to offer, but nothing will replace ongoing dialog about how to make smart choices online.
Explain to your kids why it helps to use the same profile picture on all of their bios, and provide information and a positive attitude that carries across all of their networks.
For today’s students, their online presence is dramatically changing the process of applying for college, internships and jobs. Our two resident experts are here to show how you can audit your son or daughter’s online presence yourself by knowing (1) why it matters, (2) the right way to do it, and (3) how we can help if you want to take it up a notch with an online audit. —Josh Ochs
When is it okay for students to be online?
The truth is that students are online right now whether you like it or not. —Amy Poblete
The truth is that they are online right now whether you like it or not. If you are talking about social networks, each one has a recommended age and they typically start around 13. —Amy Poblete
I just read that Pew Research did a study and found that 95% of teens 12 to 17 are online, so they’re already building their online presence. I think it starts a bit earlier than 13. —Elisa Croft
Another common parent question is, “My daughter isn’t on the Internet, so why would we worry about this?”
A a while ago we did an audit of 14-year-old boy with a friend who was a girl who played the life-simulation game The Sims. This girl had made a custom Sims character, named it after this teen we were auditing and put it on a WordPress page. It had his full name, so the audit brought up the Sims bio with all the attributes this little girl had given him.
He hadn’t not participated in that at all, but the bio she had invented was shocking. Without the audit neither he nor his parents would have known. —Amy Poblete
I agree. You can be the most careful parents in the world and say, “This would never happen to our kid.” But I am going to quote Amy, “Do you want to bet their college future that they are not online somewhere?” —Elisa Croft
Do colleges really have time to do a search on your kid?
What you start learning about your footprint now will prepare you for how employers look at you, too. —Josh Ochs
Chapman College said that if a college recruiter tells you they aren’t searching applicants online, they are lying. —Elisa Croft
Kaplan has a statistic that they did maybe a year and a half ago, and it was 40%. —Amy Poblete
Those are 40% of colleges that say “Yes,” but I would argue it’s more like 60% now. But let’s also look beyond college—what you start learning about your footprint now will prepare you for how employers look at you, too. —Josh Ochs
What red flags should people look for?
One of the first things that typically will come up for a student is one of the homework sites out there. High school students often use the presentation software Prezi, and unfortunately a lot of times what happens with those presentations is that two minutes after they make them, the student forgets about them, and it may or may not be the level of work that best represents their abilities. Yet Prezi is actually one of the first things that comes up. —Amy Poblete
Negativity is another red flag. If you are openly speaking about people or institutions or whatever else in a negative way, then that leaves others uncomfortable. They wonder, what are you going to say about us? How do you behave behind closed doors? How are you with an anonymous app?
Also pictures at parties with obvious drinking or anything like that are red flags. As a college recruiter or an employer, you would see those and think, “Well, maybe this isn’t the best candidate.” —Elisa Croft
What networks should students be on to positively impact their online results?
Let’s do cool things for other people and let that get exposed online. —Josh Ochs
My favorite is LinkedIn. A lot of times when I am looking up a professional’s online presence, I will see the LinkedIn bio come up first, which is nice. You can absolutely make a LinkedIn bio as a high school student. —Amy Poblete
My favorite is YouTube. There is a YouTube star named Marques Brownlee, and he started making tech review videos when he was 15 and gained a lot of attention. He has five million followers on YouTube now, but he started all of this by reviewing products at home that he already had. Because of his passion and the way that he dedicated himself to his YouTube channel, he has built his online presence in a positive way, gone on to interview the CEO of Motorola, and he did a big campaign with Nike and Kobe Bryant. He recently got to present a question at the Democratic debate in February. So there is a lot of power that YouTube can have if it is used in a positive way. —Elisa Croft
In my book, Light, Bright & Polite, I write a lot about helping others. Let’s do cool things for other people and let that get exposed online. What’s great about Elisa’s example is this kid was helping others by providing informative content rather than talking about himself. —Josh Ochs
Okay, once you have most of the networks set up. What is one tactic to use with your picture to make sure that I connect them all?
Make sure that you have the same profile picture across all of your social media networks. —Elisa Croft
Make sure that you have the same profile picture across all of your social media networks, because it is all about building your online brand. When people search for you, they are not going to know who you are, but if they see it on your LinkedIn profile, which should be a reliable source, and then on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, they think, “Okay. This is almost guaranteed to be them.” Conversely, if they find a post by someone else (with a similar name) that is negative or derogatory, seeing a different profile picture will clue them in that it isn’t you. —Elisa Croft
Any other tactical tips?
One free way to help keep track of your digital footprint is a tool called Footprint Friday. —Josh Ochs
Once you’ve set up your bios, take great pictures when you’re involved in volunteer projects and put those prominently on the front of your social media profiles. —Amy Poblete
Also, use those pictures as an opportunity to express gratitude. If someone sees online that you’ve traveled to all of these countries, along with pictures, it’s great to express gratitude for the people who helped make those trips possible and special. There is a lot of “show-off-iness” with social media, but you can turn that around and make it something positive to show how grateful you really are. That speaks loads about your maturity. —Elisa Croft
One free way to help keep track of your digital footprint is a tool I made called Footprint Friday. It’s really fast and a great reminder to stay on top of your online presence and search results. It uses the latest and most effective ways recruiters are searching, and when you see the Google results, it can help start a dialogue with your son or daughter or student about what’s really showing up online. —Josh Ochs
What is the difference between Footprint Friday and the additional audit you offer?
With audits we search even more deeply than Footprint Friday and add our professional advice. —Amy Poblete
Footprint Friday is free for everybody, and it really gets you to start managing your online presence, which is incredibly important. The audit is the next step. We’ve upgraded the audit to become more of a boot camp, and we give hours of our time to each family. It’s very hands on. —Josh Ochs
With audits we search even more deeply than Footprint Friday and add our professional advice. Elisa and I are both very experienced in auditing a student’s online presence and we can make specific recommendations. —Amy Poblete