mom and teen on computerWe’ve all heard it by now: the Internet is forever. A bad social media presence can follow anyone of any demographic down the road. Think of how many times you’ve heard on the news that a teen was expelled, cyberbullied, or rejected from colleges based on one digital mistake. Countless adults have been fired from jobs and penalized by the law based on poor social media choices.

The beginning of a new school year is as good a time as any to make sure that you and your kids are in control of your digital reputations. Use these tips to ensure that you are maintaining reputable social media accounts:

1. Be selective about who you're friends with on social media.

You know the saying “you are who you hang out with”! By allowing someone to be a friend or follower, you are giving them access to communicate with you publically. This means that they can write or post a picture of you on your (or their) profile wall. When accepting tens or hundreds of acquaintances as friends on social media, tons of people are given the opportunities to impact your reputation.

Keep in mind: Just because someone friend requests or follows you doesn’t mean that you owe it to them to accept or reciprocate the gesture.

2. Avoid oversharing.

Oversharing online is a phenomenon that is rampant among social media users of all ages. Oversharing comes hand in hand a myriad of possible consequences, including burglary, cyberbullying, identity theft, online predators, or simply, yet still painfully, a damaged reputation.

3. Think about how a post will be received.

Take a moment to read over your social media posts from the past few months. What do you think an outside observer would draw about yourself from viewing these posts? By taking a look at the big picture of social media activities, you may find that others potentially see you as a complainer or as someone who is overly flirtatious. Many people are unaware of the personas that they may be inadvertently projecting.

From now on, attempt to proactively post with purpose. The goal here isn’t to make you paranoid about social activity or filter what you want to say completely, but to become aware of how you’re coming off as a whole.

4. When deciding whether or not you should post something, use this rule of thumb:

If you don’t want the world seeing something, don’t post it! Know that anything put on social media can come back to haunt you. Whether privacy settings are air-tight, whether you delete a post, or whether you only post something to a small group of friends, anything put on the Internet becomes permanent.

Set your best foot forward for the rest of the year with these tips! As an extra precaution, parents can gain peace of mind that their kids are maintaining reputable social media profiles by keeping tabs on accounts through uKnowKids.

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Steven Woda
Steve Woda is the co-founder and CEO of uKnow, and a leader in the Internet safety and security field for over 15 years. He frequently speaks on the topics of Internet and mobile security, ecommerce and information economics. You can follow Steve on Twitter or on his blog.