Like students everywhere, our students are actively texting, posting to blogs, remixing, and uploading photos and videos – sometimes without the realization that once things are posted on the Internet, they can become archived permanently and are searchable by recruiters, future employers and anyone else out there with a computer.
For the past three years, we have been facilitating district-wide Internet Safety workshops for teachers, administrators, and parents. After demonstrating how to “Google yourself,”* we frequently have participants pull us aside or contact us afterwords because they’ve discovered their child has posted either inappropriate information or way too much personal information on the Internet. They want to know how they can help their child remove detrimental material from MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks.
As alarming as it may be to find that your child’s digital footprint has taken a negative turn, there are, fortunately, options for undoing or lessening the damage:
- Start by contacting the website that is hosting whatever it is you would like removed. The content could be either by or about your child. Unfortunately, even if your child understands the potential impact of placing personal information on the Web, his or her friends may not. Either way most webmasters will comply with your request (it helps to request politely;-)
- If you would prefer to pay a third party do the searches for you, businesses such as Reputation Defender will “scour the Internet for all references to your child or teen – by name, photography, screen name, or social network profiles – and package it to you in an easy-to-understand report.” Typically, fees run from$10 – $15 per month, depending on your plan. Note: the EGUSD does not endorse any search vendors.
- Encourage your child to become involved with school, community, and national or even international organizations that he/she has an interest in – and that, in turn, will provide positive press – resulting in positive Google search returns. For example, a Google search on Cosumnes Oaks sophomore and independent filmmaker Tori Winslow will bring up (besides a number of Google twins) links that showcase her passion, talent, and commitment to producing documentaries to educate the public and promote an awareness of issues ranging from humane treatment of giraffes in captivity to common health concerns . The Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium, for example, features an interview with Tori about the value of filmmaking. The Gluten-Free NYC website promotes Tori’s Celiac Disease documentary. And the EGUSD website references her in a feature story spotlighting the winning entries for the district’s first annual Internet Safety Video Contest. Tori’s accomplishments are documented and searchable, which can be a good thing – especially if the audience includes a college recruiter or a prospective employer.
If you have questions about or suggestions for helping our students create and maintain positive digital footprints, please post a comment.
*To google yourself, go to Google at http://www.google.com/. Type in your full name, but in quotes – like this “John Doe.” Then click Google search.