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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The majority of the work I do is helping companies manage and market their online reputation.  But today, I'd like to take a slightly different look at the audience we serve.  Having seen just about everything in this industry (online reputation), I know the most emotionally charged issues are those having to do with us personally or our children.

When it comes to protecting the reputations of those you love, it's hard not to worry about their safety and well being.  I'm sure many of you have had the same conversations that we've had with our children, "Don't post anything online that you wouldn't show us" or "The internet is permanent, think twice before you post pictures" or "Don't have online relationships - you never know who's at the other end", so on and so forth.  And this is all good advice.  However, there's much more you can do to ensure the safety and security of your children online that giving them some general advice.

Here are just a few thing I touch on in my latest ebook which you can download for free, 15 Ways to Protect Your Online Reputation.  The advice that follows is specifically for children who need even more protection:

1.  Register a website name (URL) on their behalf.  Imagine your child being in his teens and making a bad decision.  Maybe he went to a party and had something to drink or his pants fell down and someone took a picture (yes, these things do happy). The next day, some of his friends think it would be funny to share the photo.  But instead of spreading the word via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they decide to buy the url with contains his name. Okay, now you're in trouble.  They own the domain and are free to post anything they want... pictures, comments , etc.  Before long, all the kids at school know about it and are visiting the website in large numbers.  You think the world is over.  Well, it gets worse.  The more a website is visited, the more popular it becomes, and the more weight Google gives it in search results.  Now you're really screwed.  I won't get into freedom of speech and the legality of getting the site removed, but it will take time and the damage has already be done.  Do yourself a favor, buy a domain name that includes your son's or daughter's full name or nickname if the one you want is not available.

2.  Help your child build an optimized set of social media accounts.  When kids log on to social media, they are more concerned with the tweeting or posting than setting up a well rounded profile.  And that profile stays with them for a very long time.  For example, even though MySpace hasn't been used in forever, many individual's profiles are posted and have remained unchanged despite the fact they are working and others are searching for them online.  If you take the right approach when your kids begin using social media, they'll be following best practices for years to come.  Work with your teen or child to set up popular social media accounts like Google+, Facebook, and Twitter that position them in a positive light.

3.  Deliberately post pictures of your student when appropriate.  Do you have a Facebook account?  Then you probably know quite a bit about tagging people in pictures.  Tagging can be applied in various ways so it's important to make sure that you are publishing images that meet your criteria for "appropriate".  Google image search will pick up images that are properly tagged and you can protect unwanted photos from showing by building a positive repository of images that are okay to be seen.

4. Monitor search results.  Every so often, go to the web and Google your child's name.  This may seem a bit creepy, but monitoring is one of the best ways to nip issues in the bud.  When searching for your child's name, don't bother with quotation marks or any other delimiters.  Instead, take note of what appears.  Are you finding negative information or inappropriate content... or no content at all?  Monitor results, it's your responsibility.

Protecting your child's online reputation is essential. Don't wait for someone else mention tell you when a child's image has been compromised because of what someone said or did online.  It's much more important to be proactive and protect your child.  Reacting once the damage is done can be expensive and time consuming.  Start today.


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