It’s no surprise that over 90% of teens today have profiles on at least one social network, if not multiple networks. However, many teens seem to think that there is an expectation of privacy on social networks—which is simply not true. Everything you share on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Quorra, and more can be shared with the whole world, depending on your privacy settings and how careful you are about what you share. And what most teens don’t realize is that the information they are sharing now may harm them in the future as they try to get a job and apply for college. But here are four tips that might help teens better filter their online sharing and prevent a thoughtless action from creating negative consequences.
1) Know your settings
First and foremost, teens need to educate themselves about the privacy settings on their social networks. Most social platforms allow you to adjust who can and cannot see your private information. Although teens may want to put their cell phone number online for all their friends, making that information accessible to anyone can open them up to abuse, bullying, predators, and more.
Keep in mind that even if you set that type of information to “private” it can still be leaked to 3rd parties by anyone who is your friend on that social network. So, just because it can’t be seen by strangers doesn’t mean it can’t be found. Privacy only adds a layer of difficulty to obtaining the information. You should still be careful about what information you choose to share online.
2) Trim your friends list
Even though strangers can’t access your personal information if you create high privacy settings, your friends still can. All it takes is for one of your friends to share your cell phone, address, or personal pictures with someone you don’t know for problems to begin. So, be careful about who you are friends with online. Remember, being friends with you online is a privilege, not a right. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information with someone, don’t feel pressured to be their friend online.
3) If you don’t want to shout it from a rooftop, don’t share it
Anything you share on social networks can be shared publicly, so don’t share anything online that you wouldn’t want everyone at school to know. In addition, parents, school administrators, potential employers, and college admissions offices can check in on your social networking behaviors very easily and get a sense of the things you are doing and saying online. Again, if you don’t want anyone to know about it, don’t share it on social networks.
4) Think about the future
Social networks are now a tool that many employers, college admissions officers, and scholarship award givers use to gauge the integrity of teens. So always put your best foot forward online. If your profile picture shows you with a beer in your hand, colleges may not want you, and employers may not want to hire you. And if you brag about cheating on a test or fooling one of your high school teachers, that tells potential colleges that you are a disrespectful and lazy student. Think about the future, and keep in mind that what you share today could hurt you tomorrow.
Today, more and more of your lives are online, but knowing how to better manage your online reputation through social networks will help you stay safe and have the best chance at a bright future.