7-Day Digital Cleanse for College-Bound Kids

digital cleanseWe already know that poor social media decisions can impact a teen or tween's future. Read on to learn about how a 7-day cleanse can help them refresh their online reputations. This article was originally published on McAfee Blog Central by Toni Birdsong.

Sorry, this post will not push the health benefits of a kale-flax smoothie (although they do rock). But, if your aspiring college student follows this 7-Day Digital Cleanse for a full week, he is bound to become more digitally fit. (Disclaimer: the side effects of the 7-Day Digital Cleanse could be life changing and dream saving).

By now we all know about the fallout that can happen when young people with big dreams fail to post properly on social media sites. We’ve seen Olympic athletes sent home for a tweet, a zillion people get fired, and college scholarships revoked because a tweet or photo made it to the desk of a college decision maker. 

In 2013, Kaplan Test Prep surveyed nearly 400 college admissions officers and found that 30% said they found something online that negatively impacted the applicant’s chances of getting admitted. On the flip side, when canvassing students in a separate study, Kaplan found that 50% of students admitted they would “not be concerned” about an admissions officer researching them online while 27% said they were “not too concerned,” and 14% said they were “very concerned.”

Offenses cited in the admissions study included essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos and “illegal activities.”

While the definition of “offenses” varies from person to person, your future is too important to leave to chance. So, it’s safe to err on the side of caution when “cleansing” your social channels. The more conventional in your sharing practices, the better. So, let’s get started!

7-Day Digital Cleanse for College-Bound Kids (written to students):

Day One: Think like an admissions officer. Sounds a little strange but put yourself in the position of the person whose job it is to recruit focused students who also happen to be responsible, decent people. What may not offend you (the student) could offend the admissions officer. A good rule for digital cleansing: “When in doubt, take it out!” Or, use the Granny Rule: If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it then delete it!

Day Two: Google yourself. Sounds simple but this is what the Admissions Officer will likely do first. If you find negative content such as your name on blogs or blog comments, negative Facebook content, or if you are tagged in any party or “illegal” substance photos on Instagram or Twitter, address the issue immediately. Ask (be persistent) various account owners to delete or untag you.

Day Three: Sanitize Your Feeds. Max your privacy settings so no one outside of accepted friends can see your Facebook or Instagram feeds. Be sure to edit your About Page or Profile blurbs. Remove any movies, books, or affiliated groups that might reflect poorly on you. (For example, you may want to delete The Southpark Movie or a sexually explicit book or app). You may have items in your profile you “liked” four years ago that don’t reflect you anyway (like the Young Fascists of America Facebook group your little brother “liked” for you when you left your Facebook account open).

Day Four: Flush Your Twitter feed. Twitter is 140 characters of short copy blurbs that can often contain more emotion than fact. While it feels good (and harmless) at the time, Twitter’s impact can be deceptive. Tweets go viral fast. And tweets can ruin lives if they are reckless. If you don’t want to make your feed private be sure to remove any tweets that may be scrutinized such as racist, mean, arrogant, judgmental, or sexual or crude tweets. Also, go through your “following” and “followers” lists and sanitize. If you have a lot of provocative or “party” friends you follow or who follow you, an onlooker will cast you in the same light (fair or not). Don’t forget to cleanse your Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram accounts as well. Admissions officers will go where Google says you are most active.

Day Five: Cleanse or Purchase Names and URLs. Cleansing includes making sure your Twitter handle, Facebook name and URL do not include profanity or slang. Be sure to check your name’s URL  (i.e.: www.JohnSmith.com) and if no one else owns it, buy it. The last thing you need is an admissions officer going to your site and being shocked by an adult film star who shares your same name. URL real estate is valuable (especially YOURS) so if you don’t own yours, go buy it at a site like GoDaddy.com now.

Day 6: Change Your Persona Online—Permanently. If your online practices have kept you overly busy during this 7-Day Digital Cleanse, now is a good time to make some permanent changes. It’s never too late to turn your online conversations around—not just to influence admissions officers but the rest of the academic and professional world of which you are now a part. So pepper your Twitter feed with some positive, useful content that reflects the person you aspire to be. If you feel the need to vent, rage, or be highly opinionated (to the point of hate) then start a private Tumblr or blog and be sure to lock it. Better yet, buy a journal and a pen because nothing is private online.

Day 7: Start a Career-Focused Blog. Self-publishing a blog is a great proactive tool if you are serious about putting yourself in the best light for college admissions. It’s a good way to control what people Google about you! You can start a no-cost blog at Blogger, Weebly, WordPress or Tumblr and put the blog address on your college application and invite Admissions to visit. Write blog posts that might appeal to admissions officers. Discuss your goals, academics, aspirations, and anything else that reflects your abilities and who you are as a person. Be sure to share your blog posts on Twitter or other feeds. If you need a community of positive teens to inspire you, visit A Platform for Good where you can learn about different ways to make a positive impact online.

Tweens and kids need to know early on that the actions they take on the web can affect their options for college and careers. Utilize uKnowKids as a digital parenting tool to be able to better direct your teens towards cultivating appropriate social media profiles.                

We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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