After the Social Media Background Check article, I received a significant amount of feedback from readers and parents asking if there’s a way for them, or their teen, to “clean up” their social media profile. As I pointed out in the original article, a person’s social media profile officially consists of “up to seven years” worth of publicly available records—that means: personal blogs, social network profiles (if not set to private), online dating profiles, Craigslist ads, YouTube accounts and all photos/videos that are linked to said posts and profiles in one way or another.
Though there’s no “one way” to go about cleaning it up, there are a few very easy things you can do if you think you or your teens’ online portrait may not be very…beneficial to future college applications or professional endeavors.
1. Talk to your child –
Whether they are 7, 17 or 20 years of age, let them know that social media background checks are a reality.
- Of course the 7 year old won’t necessarily understand, but it’s a good time to start instilling in your children just how important it is that they behave and conduct themselves appropriately online. While you may be a recipient of an eye-rolling gesture from your teen, lay out the truth. They should (hopefully) understand where you’re coming from and be willing to sit down follow these very easy steps.
2. Google your/your child’s name; see what comes up -
Though there are more sophisticated ways of doing it, Google is usually the first place people look when they want to get the details on someone’s online identity. Think of it as an all-in-one people search tool.
- Take it a step further and perform a Google image search. If you see pictures of yourself and you’re not sure where they’re from, scroll over the image and see the source URL.
3. Clean up your/your child’s social network profile whether it’s on Facebook, Tagged, MyYearbook, TeenSpot, etc. -
For obvious reasons, like sheer number of users, Facebook is the number one place where people tend to get too comfortable with posting/saying things they wouldn’t necessarily say in real life.
If you’ve recently read my five part series then you know how many social networks proactively encourage and support our kids’ participation in what one would consider outrageous behavior, and you have further reason to understand that “it’s not all about Facebook”. Instead, it’s the culture that awaits our children online, and another important reason why you should know what social networks your child belongs to. Clean-up starts with:
- Going through all your/your child’s photos and deleting anything that seems racy or inappropriate in any way.
- Un-tag your child/yourself from photos you don’t really want to be associated with. This presents a great “talking/reflecting opportunity” for you and your child.
- Go through your/your child’s old status updates and delete things like profanity or anything that you’d look at and shake your head if it were someone else other you’re your child saying it.
- Make your profile private so it’s viewable only by friends and family….and keep it that way. (Remember at Yoursphere.com your child’s online privacy is a key priority. All profiles are set to private for their proactive protection.) When your child is older, ask them if they think it’s a good or bad thing for them to accept every friend request – whether it’s the new person on their dorm/apartment floor or their boss. It’s an opportunity to remind your kids that, in the physical world, we take the time to get to know the person before we decide to share our personal details – let alone each waking thought or private photo albums.
4. Go back to your/your child’s “old” social media accounts -
Often times, our kids (or ourselves) join a site, create a profile, upload some content, exchange words with other members of the site, etc, for a few weeks, and then forget about it (including everything posted).
- Delete any old dating website profiles and any photos that may have uploaded.
- Remove any “irresponsible” YouTube videos that may have been uploaded in the past.
- Dig through the profiles on photo sharing sites like Flickr or Picnik and delete any photos that could pass as inappropriate.
- If you frequently upload photos or videos to Twitter, check your account on yFrog, TwitPic or any of the other dozen hosting sites. Delete any eye sores here.
- If you’re “not sure” what sites your children may have joined or your child doesn’t remember, launch each browser on the computer your child uses/used and select “history” then “show all history.” Go back as far as you can to search the sites that were visited. Clicking through, look for any site that had a membership sign up page.
5. Read through any old, personal blog posts -
It’s safe to say that many people use blogs as a way to document their lives, like a journal, or to let off some steam. As a result, we/our kids have likely not been thinking about the impact what they write may have on our/their future. (This is especially the case for teens who like to blog about their personal lives.)
As a wrap up, parents, I hope this article is a guide that is useful to you on a personal level, and it should prove to be even more useful to your college-bound/soon-to-be college grads. The future of background checks is changing, and our teens are at the forefront of this transition. It’s our job to help prepare them and empower them while guiding them in the right direction.