Creating a Family Social Media Policy: part 2

internet-blundersNow that I have convinced you that you are a bad parent and the lives of your loved ones will be ruined in Creating a  Family Social Media Policy: part 1, we shall look at the beginning steps.  As with all things parenting related, creating a family social media policy will involved education, monitoring and rules.

One of the first hurdles to get over is convincing your children of WHY a Family social media policy is important. Granted, you might not parent by democracy, but  by educating your kids (and other family members if necessary) why it is important, there is a better chance of compliance through that understanding so let’s discuss first some reasons to avoid internet blunders.

The Importance of An Online Reputation

While it can seem like out of site equals out of mind, once you hit send it’s not really gone!

Google, God off all things on the internet still, indexes and files things away. Even pages on URL altered and taken down can be cached, meaning Google has a copy of it and will show that URL  in search results often for months after the page itself is long gone.

Plus, there is always the screen shot. Say you have a huge forum spat with some unknown poster on some message board and it gets nasty. Later on you have cooled down and repented, so you delete all your curses and wishes for a slow painful death.  Let’s pretend that you might even feel somewhat embarrassed by you lack of emotional control at the keyboard and apologize. That’s all well and good, but what if he subject of your wrath took a screen shot or anyone else who might have wandered by and found your exchange offensive.? Now proof of your outburst is forever under someone else’s control and they have the ability to post the conversation someplace for all to say and ruin your good name.

Even if we look at something in “real time”, not a permanent installation online like a webpage, but a tweet has a very very long shelf life.. forever! It was announced this spring that  every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. All your 140 character thoughts are preserved for all mankind.

Protecting Your Kids from Themselves and Online Threats

Let’s get back to the idea of an online resume.

I recently spoke to a group of College kids about social media and the one thing I ordered them to do immediately was to go home and clean up their Facebook profiles. Why?  Because of the real permanence of our online selves exists long after we might grow up and mature. What one puts online does represent us, so kids need to start projecting what they want to be as who they are now! Want to be a writer? Start writing! As I explained to them, don’t have pictures of you looking all wasted surrounded by empty beer cans unless you WANT to be known as that party guy.  Which in some case, like the lifelong dream to be the next Def Leopard drummer or Bam Margera’s new best friend, the crazy pictures would be a good thing, alas a school counselor, not so much!the internet boogie man

The future employers of your children WILL Google them as many places do this already. The college admissions advisors WILL Googled them too.  They CAN lose out of chances and opportunities in life based on a nasty Tweet or a very questionable image.  This is the world that our kids are growing up in and then need to know how to be prepared for it.

Part of the educational aspect of watching what we do online also means that we are wary of sites that can hurt not only us, but our computers. Kids should be taught to beware of spyware and virus and what to do if something suspicious pops up.  There are a bunch of really clever viruses that are cloaked to look like an antivirus and are very convincing in order to get one to make that initial click. With some of them, all your kids has to do is one simple click and you will spend hundreds of dollars with the Geek Squad  hoping that you don’t have to upgrade your laptop right now.

Cheesy Nigerian lotteries, long lost relatives, phishing scams, Facebook friends trapped in London and needing money, Fake PayPal emails looking for account numbers, cyber bulling AND pornography… yeah, you should talk to your kids about what to do in these situations. There really is an Internet Boogie Man and he is not just under the bed! Think of it like a fire drill. Discuss, prepare and practice the safe procedures for if and when these threats strike.

Monitoring: Setting Up Google Alerts for your Family

It’s really easy to monitor what goes online about your family with Google Alerts.

Google Alerts  allows you to not only see what Google is indexing or  categorizing based on your family names so that it shows up in searches, that immediate family members put up under your names, but also allows you to keep track of what other people are putting online about you are you kids!  That’s means if a friend puts up a picture on Flickr with your child’s full name, you will see it. Or if you get a mention in a local newspaper, you will see it. Or if a co-worker is venting about your husband on Twitter, you will see it.

To set up Google Alerts, all you have to have is an email address and go to Google Alerts. Put in your  search terms, in this case the names of your family members and tell Google which email address you would like the alerts sent to. So you do not get inundated with tons of emails about every other kids online name Brittney, use quotes. For Example: “Brittney MacDougal”. This tells Google that you are only interested in these two terms together. Granted you will get notified about any other Brittney MacDougal that might have something online, but it’s a heck of a lot better than getting every celebrity news about Brittney Spears. If your last name is very common, then you are probably going to get very good at skimming through alerts quickly.

Once the alerts are set up, then all you have to do is wait for them to get delivered to your email box. In addition to Google alerts, if your kids are particularly social,  you can run their names or their email address through Social Mention and set up alerts for names as well. Then check out the link and see who is saying what and where!

Granted, depending on your kids ages, you should know what they are doing online and where they are going.  Again, depending, it’s not a bad idea for parents to know the log ins to their children’s online profiles and check up on them periodically.  I know I had to have a few conversations with my young teenage son about things that girls put on his “comment” box that really, were way out of line and crazy overtly sexual.  Maybe these were not the easiest conversations to have, but he needed to know that I was aware and I was reassured to hear that he thought these young ladies were half out of their gourds as well. Just as kids need supervision at home and get in the most trouble between the times of 3 and 5 when parents are still at work, kids need supervision online too and do better if they know that mom or dad might be checking their walls when they least expect it.

The fact is, if you are prepared to have rules for your family to follow regarding social media, then you better have the means to know if they are adhering or breaking the rules otherwise, you are just wasting time and proving that your family and walk all over you! So yes creating a family social media policy does mean that you, as a parent, have more work to do!

I promise,
 we shall get down to the real nitty-gritty of creating a
Family Social Media Policy!
stay tuned for
Setting Up Family Social Media Policy Rules
Creating a Family Social Media Policy: part 3