Everything your child publicly posts online is being recorded and archived. And that information could wreak havoc on your child’s future.

Decisions to hire an employee were once only based on information listed on their resume, a few phone calls, and an in-person interview.

Not any more.

Human Resource departments conduct thorough Google, Facebook, and other social media searches on every job applicant — before they even read the entire resume.

And a child’s social footprint can even damage their chances of getting into college.

In 2017, Harvard withdrew acceptance offers from at least 10 incoming freshmen after administrators discovered the students were sharing explicit memes via a Facebook chat. And in 2019, they rescinded admission over racial slurs made over two years ago.

baby with a worried expression while using a laptop computer

Who is protecting your social media baby?

Key facts about home computer access and internet use

“In 2015, three in five children ages 3 to 17 (60 percent) used the internet at home, nearly six times as many as in 1997 (11 percent); additionally, four in five children had a computer at home (80 percent), up from 15 percent in 1984”. source

In 2018, some 94 percent of 3- to 18-year-olds had home internet access: 88 percent had access through a computer, and 6 percent had access only through a smartphone.The remaining 6 percent had no internet access at home. – “The Condition of of Education 2020” report (PDF) by the National Center for Educational Statistic

Percentage of children ages 3 to 17 who have access to a computer at home and who use the Internet at home, 1984-2015

How much information are we sharing online?

  • By 2011, 20.2 million children under 11 will go online at least once per month — rising to 24.9 million kids by 2014. source
  • 66% of US children and teens ages 8 to 18 had a mobile phone. (2009)
  • Kids under 18 send and receive roughly 2,800 texts per month source
  • 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute source
  • 95 million updates posted to Twitter every hour. source
  • 2.5 billion photos uploaded each month to Facebook source
  • According to two Pew Internet Research survey’s of 700 and 935 teens, 38% of respondents ages 12 to 14 said they had an online profile of some sort.
  • 61% percent of those in the study, ages 12 to 17, said they use social-networking sites to send messages to friends, and 42% said they do so every day.
Chart: US Internet Users, by Age, 2008-2014

US Internet Users, by Age, 2008-2014 (millions) : emarketer.com

Internet Usage of Teenagers in the United States

  • As of May 2017, it was found that 43% of female teen internet users in the U.S. had stated that they could not go out without their smartphones for less than one day, while only 33% of male teen similar responses. (YouGov; eMarketer, 2017)
  • 79% of responding internet users aged 13 to 24 years used Snapchat, making it the leading social media and networking site in the U.S. (Edison Research; Triton Digital; MarketingCharts, 2017)
  • Netflix was the most popular video content platform among U.S. teens, representing 38% of the respondents. (Piper Jaffray; MarketingCharts, 2018)

Now ask yourself

Ask yourself, “How much information will your child have shared by the time they’re 18 years old?”

When your child applies to college, will there be information floating around in the social media universe that keeps them from being accepted? According to a study by Kaplan, 80% of America’s top colleges use social media in their recruiting process.

When they step into a job interview, how many social skeletons will be waiting to haunt them? 78% of companies Google job applicants.

After they do land a job, will human resources discover an embarrassing video or revealing tweet that get’s them fired? It happens.

Social media isn’t a fad. It’s not going away.

This is why businesses have social media guidelines to protect the company and ensure their brand remains consistent to their voice. And if they’re engaged in social media and don’t have guidelines in place, they’re putting themselves at s risk and creating a massive opportunity for their brand to fail.

It has happened time after time.

It’s not too early to take a serious look at what guidelines you’ll establish for how your children will use social media — including texting. Yes, even texting can get people into trouble.

Social Media Guideline Suggestions

What sort of social media guidelines do you need to create in order to protect your children and ensure their successful future? Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Decide what social media networks your children can use.
    Networks come and go so you’ll need to make periodic adjustments to what’s on the “approved” list. As a starting point, current social networks you can start looking at are;
  • What topics can they talk about? Or to simplify, what topics can’t they talk about?
  • Which social networks can they post to?
  • What type of photos and video can they post online?
  • Will your guidelines discourage them from using profanity?
  • Can they post their email address online (I’d personally recommend against this)?
  • What about your home address, and phone number?
  • What about posting family details (names, photos, birthdate’s, announcing when and where they’re going on vacation, etc.)
  • Announcing vacation details (when, where and how long)?
  • Who else are they unknowingly revealing information about?

Aside from the information they personally post online, think about establishing guidelines for the types of situations your children should avoid. Situations where other people (friends, bystanders, and even boyfriends and girlfriends) can easily take photos, audio, and video of your children and post it on a social network. Even if your children aren’t the subject of the photo, their mere presence could still be damaging.

Also consider looking at this interactive learning resource created by AT&T for educators and parents, “Sammy’s Guide to Internet Safety“. The guide teaches kids how to enjoy the internet safely while providing fun activities and games.

Social Media Monitoring is your friend

Once you’ve decided on some ground rules, it’s time to think about how you’re going to monitor their social media travels.

Are you going to Friend them on Facebook? Follow them on Twitter? Set up Google alerts or perhaps use a social media monitoring tool?

You have a lot of options and tools available to you — and you should consider using them. Because your children will be online. They will be connecting with friends and posting more information in the future than we can even imagine.

And as much as the Internet can provide a wealth of knowledge, interaction and entertainment. It can also be the equivalent of digital quicksand that consumes everything that falls into it — including your child’s online reputation.

Have you considered creating social media guidelines for your children? What suggestions do you have?

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