What Your Teens Think of Your Online Reputation?

You know you’re a pretty good parent. Sure, you’re not perfect – but most of the time, you do what you have to do to provide a comfortable, nurturing life for your kids. Most importantly, your children love and respect you.

But because kids are naturally curious, they will start to wonder about aspects of your life that they aren’t familiar with. And since kids are computer-savvy, they’re likely to turn to the Internet to find the answers rather than ask you.

When they type your name into a search engine, what will they come across? Will they discover:

  • Inflammatory comments from you? Did you insult someone on a Facebook thread? Send out a foul-mouthed tweet? Or perhaps you even kept a personal blog at one point that espoused ideas you’ve since “grown out of”? They’re still out in cyberspace somewhere.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos with you in them? Maybe these images depict you drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, or consuming illicit drugs. Or perhaps you were wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing. Or it’s possible you were engaging in some activity that would require a difficult and uncomfortable explanation.
  • Photos or videos containing you and other members of the opposite sex? Even innocent photos of you and an ex-significant other can set off a confused train of thought in the minds of (particularly young) children. Especially if you were kissing or hugging someone who isn’t their mother/father. (And God forbid that ill-advised sex tape ever made its way onto the Web!)
  • Negative comments made by others about you? Kids are protective of their parents, so it may hurt them if they see other people saying bad things about Mom and Dad on Facebook or other social media sites, even if they were meant in jest. Especially if they were written by people that the child knows (like family friends or relatives).
  • Your membership in groups that may be difficult to explain? In addition to traditional organizations, this includes online forums, virtual worlds, and even gaming sites. If you are found contributing to a site or group that discusses drugs, weapons, illegal activity, or pornography – even one time – that will probably initiate an awkward parent-child conversation.
  • Complaints or accusations against you professionally? If you are a business owner, lawyer, or doctor, there are sites out there that collect reviews and comments about people in your industry. Practicing good merchant, attorney, or physician reputation management will reduce the odds of your kid seeing someone insult or gripe about their mom or dad.
  • Your criminal record? Sure, those criminal record database sites cost a little money – but that doesn’t mean that your child still won’t get access to them. Even if it was a drug charge, public intoxication arrest, or a misdemeanor assault or theft, any blemish on your past could undermine any moral authority you have with your kids in the future.

You’ve probably already figured out the moral of this story: It is essential that you monitor your online reputation. This means getting problematic content off of sites you control, and even asking other site administrators to remove unflattering material. Because the last thing you want is for some long-ago incident or bad decision to come back to haunt you by jeopardizing your relationship with your children.

Guest post by Chris Martin.

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