How Your Kids Can Use Social Media to Create Future Success

Everything that we do online leaves an impression and it’s known as our Digital Footprint. Every post, every picture, even every “like”, says something about the person who’s created it. And not only about them: every friend or colleague “tagged” in that online picture or a post now has information added to their digital footprint linking them to that content as well – and all that information is now available to anyone looking to learn more about them.

So, who is looking and who should care? While I could sit here and tell you everyone should care about who’s monitoring their online presence, one group in particular should pay close attention. TEENS need to care and take every opportunity to improve their Digital Footprint. Why? Consider this: when asked why he robbed banks, notorious outlaw Willie Sutton simply explained, “Because that’s where the money is.” College admissions officers and potential employers take that same approach to finding out more about the candidates they’re considering. They go where the “gold” is – where they can learn the “real story” about who your child is, who their friends are, what they value, etc. These are the people whose decisions can seriously impact your child’s future – and they are looking at your child’s digital footprint to guide that choice. In fact, the majority of colleges and employers now look for an applicant’s footprint before making a decision on acceptance or even granting an interview. What they find can make or break your child’s chances of getting into a better school or getting their dream job.

This is especially true at the more competitive schools/companies. It’s not enough to minimize potential negative aspects. If what they’re going to find can help or hurt our kid’s chances of success, it’s up to us to make sure that it’s as helpful as possible. We need to maximize the potential positive aspects and it’s simpler than people think. Maybe not easy, but simpler.

Improving Their Digital Footprint

There are several ways that we can all improve our Digital Footprint. It goes without saying that we should all be mindful of any negative comments we say online. But how many teens actually use the Internet to improve their footprint? It’s actually pretty simple, if they follow some basic steps:

Start a blog or personal website that focuses the teen’s future. For example, writers should get to know Wattpad, which provides free hosting for their stories. Publishers and literary agents look there for new talent. There are plenty of companies that provide free website hosting. Improved services are available for a free, naturally, but even so, they’re a good place to start.

It takes time to build an online reputation and unfortunately, not that long to destroy it when something bad happens. Teens should create social media accounts to help build their brand (yes, that’s exactly what they are in this case). LinkedIn is available once they reach 16 years of age and the sooner they start, the better. This site can also let them interact with alumni from potential schools or engage with people in their future field of endeavor. They an also use it to learn more about the schools and companies that they want to associate with after high school.

Engagement is a huge part of improving their Digital Footprint. They need to comment, share, etc. to start networking. Hopefully, this will encourage others to do the same with their original content. Making well-reasoned comments on posts helps create relationships that can easily lead to great opportunities. If you want to learn more about how that works, read likeable social media, by Dave Kerpen.

Takeaways

Building a strong reputation and becoming a person of influence can take a long time. The sooner your teens get started on it, the sooner they will reap the rewards. If done well, it will eventually provide momentum that will begin to provide results with less effort on their part.

Too many people and companies give up on social media because they don’t see instantaneous results. Social media doesn’t work that way. Nothing that is worth doing works that quickly. If it did, everyone would do it. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of their Own:

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

Once their Footprint is more likely to help than hurt them, it’s time to share it, especially when applying to schools and companies. They should provide the other party with links to their accounts, blogs, articles where they were interviewed, etc. It all adds up to making them the standout among a potentially large group of candidates. Many email systems include an “autograph” feature where they can include links to their content/profiles that they want included in all correspondence. They can then include links to specific content to make sure that the other person sees the most helpful parts of their Footprint.

If you want to see some examples of how a person’s footprint can affect them, search for #OnlineMeetsOffline in a search engine or on a social media platform. Some of the stories that come up will amuse you, while others may shock you to your core.

If your child takes the actions that I’ve described here, they can become a person of influence via social media that will provide significant long term benefits to them. In today’s hi-tech world, our Digital Footprint may be the most valuable thing that we own and we need to protect it!

About the Author

Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cybersafety advocate for more than 10 years. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that he became involved in helping others in the area. He is certified by the US Centers for Disease Control in Bullying Prevention. Joe is the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying &Online Activity which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016. Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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