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6 Things your teens should do to protect their online reputation

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These practical steps can help protect their information, reputation — and future.

Young people are increasingly connected to social networks at earlier ages. According to statistics from Pew Research, 95% of U.S. teens have access to a cell phone, 72% use Instagram, 69% use Snapchat, and 51% use Twitter.

However, are they informed users? Not all of them! Hence the need to support teens in the use of these applications and to awaken them to the notion of “digital reputation.”

All content published on social networks, blogs, or video sharing platforms shows a facet of a person, contributes to the development of an online image, and above all, offers a foothold to cyberbullying. We need to teach our teens to take certain precautions so they can use social media more safely. Here are six things teens should know:

1
Their personal data is valuable

Users need to be aware that their personal information is very valuable. All information posted on social media, including likes, geolocation data, photos, habits, etc., is used — at best for commercial purposes, at worst, for malicious intentions by unscrupulous people. A good way to discern what’s publishable and what’s not is to ask yourself if you would consider it “public” information.

The fact is, there is no way to guarantee that what is published will remain where the author intends it to be seen. Evidence of this appears constantly: so-called “private” messages shared by “friends,” account hacking, and the frequency of “leaks” of personal data by Internet giants unable to guarantee digital confidentiality.

Their posts may have consequences on their future life and that of others
2

The internet forgets nothing, and inappropriate content can stick around for a long time. The best example is that of job recruiters who are looking for information on candidates for employment. The slightest slip-up or compromising photo can be a disadvantage when someone is looking for a job.

Teens must also be alerted to the consequences that their posts may have on the privacy of others. Talking about their parents’ professional, financial, or marital difficulties can be harmful. This is where the notion of digital reputation comes in: while you can control part of your reputation online, there’s still a part that doesn’t depend on you, but on what others will post about you.

3
They can tighten up their privacy settings

By default most social media profiles are set to “all public,” but you can limit who can view your profile to “friends” or to only a few people. Good settings management thus provides a certain level of protection. Not perfect, but better than nothing.

4
It's important to protect your account properly

In order to keep personal information private, it’s necessary to have a strong password (composed of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers), and to activate the “two-factor authentication” option, which requires two confirmations of the user’s identity. Online software allows you to hack into poorly protected accounts in a matter of minutes.

5
They can request the deletion of unwanted material

If someone has published something involving you that you want removed, the first step is to ask the person who initiated the publication to remove it. If this isn’t possible, there is (according to each platform) a way of reporting a post. Some countries or regions (such as the European Union) also have legislation that offers additional protections and channels of recourse to have information about you removed from the internet.

6
Follow the example of the Virgin Mary, an outstanding influencer

The Virgin Mary, this “young woman of Nazareth, was not part of the ‘social networks’ of the time. She was not an ‘influencer,’ but without wanting or trying to, she became the most influential woman in history,” Pope Francis pointed out last January in Panama City to the 600,000 young people gathered for World Youth Day. The pope exhorted young people to be “influencers” the same way Mary is — that is, by living out the law of love. “Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo,” concluded the pontiff.

Read more: How to take back your power as a parent when it comes to technology and your kids

Read more: 6 Essential skills your child needs from pre-smartphone days

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