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Help Your Child Create an Appropriate Online Persona

With a child’s digital footprint following teens as they seek jobs and entrance into college, they must think carefully about the online persona that they’re creating. Posting appropriate profile pictures and wholesome activities, while using nonsuggestive online names, will help create and maintain a positive digital persona for your child.

Suitable profile pictures

Teens often upload a profile picture quickly and with little thought, snapping a quick photo with a webcam or a phone’s camera. A quick image search makes it clear, however, that the image your child chooses to associate online with their name can stick with them as part of their digital footprint.

While profile pictures are the most important because they are public, ask your teens to also think carefully before sharing any photos. Inappropriate pictures associated with their digital footprint may come back to haunt them!

Here are some important reasons why your kids select a suitable profile picture as they begin to explore all that the digital world has to offer:

  • Digital footprint: The actions your child takes online — everything from product reviews to posts on Friends’ social media pages — follow them into their future, creating a legacy that can be searched by future employers and educational institutions. Ask your kids to consider who might find their profile image in a quick search — and if they feel comfortable about the image they’ve selected to share with the world.

  • Safety: Just as the information shared by your child in chat rooms and on social media sites can be used by online predators to gain the trust of your child, profile pictures may also catch the attention of online predators. Ask that your kids do not use images that contain the following:

    • Sexually provocative images

    • Identifying information, such as full name, address, or birthdate

    • Illegal behavior

Select appropriate online handles

If your child is creating an account on a chat platform or online world that is frequented only by other friends their age, they may want to come up with a silly yet safe online name: a “handle.” However, remind them that when creating more public and widely used names — including e-mail addresses — that they should choose a name they feel comfortable sharing.

Kids should carefully select their online names for many safety reasons. Beyond safety reasons, however, they should keep in mind that this screen name may follow them for years and across platforms. They should carefully select a name that is

  • Easy to remember

  • Free of identifying or private information (such as birth year or first name)

  • Does not include their gender

  • Safe to share with both friends and family

  • Different from their e-mail address

  • Free of vulgar or inappropriate words

A handle is likely to be used for a long period of time, across many platforms, and using a random group of letters and numbers is unwieldy.

Remind your kids that not only is their screen name likely the first piece of information that others will see about them, but it acts as a protective layer between the public and private information. While it may make sense for your child to include their favorite activity as part of their screen name, this also provides strangers with personal information. The safest bet is to select a random name.

Ask your children to always use a screen name that’s different from their real name — as well as different from their passwords.

Keep a positive persona

Your children can use their online persona to create a positive digital footprint. Ask your teen to consider including the following information in their online biographies and profile information to give a positive first impression:

  • Favorite after-school activities and hobbies

  • Notable accomplishments, academic and extra-curricular

  • Volunteer interests

  • Educational and career interests

Even brief biographies give your teen the chance to make a great digital first impression!

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