Tips to Help Teenagers Clean Up Their Online Image

By Sue Scheff

#Digcit. Have you seen it and do you know what it means? The hashtag stands for digital citizenship. My mantra has been that this topic is as important as potty training toddlers.


The Internet is not going away. On the contrary, there’s no doubt that the Internet will play a huge role in your teenager’s personal and professional future. Therefore, it is important to help teenagers learn to be respectful digital citizens.


In other words, their behavior online must be reflective of their offline behavior. Why? Because when it comes to potential college admissions and employment, your teenager will probably be the subject of an Internet search. In fact, it’s already happening. A recent survey revealed that almost 40 percent of college admission’s officers google their applicants.


We train our children to be kind to others wherever they are: at home, in the neighborhood, at the park, or at school. It shouldn’t be any different when our teenagers are using a keyboard, whether that’s texting, social media, or email.


When it comes to technology, one of the first things your adolescent will acquire is his or her own email account. Learning to use email may not seem any different than writing a letter, but there are digital rules. Here are just a few that will help teenagers:


1. Confirm Your Recipient. This is an important message for our teenagers, whether they are sending an email to a prospective employer or their grandparents. While emailing friends and family is more casual than emailing someone professionally, some rules remain the same, like confirming that you’re sending your email or text to the right person.


What happens when you accidentally send an email to the wrong person? It is very easy to do. I am sure many of you have done this. I have, regrettably.


You type the first few letters and your address book will automatically give you the last email you used beginning with those letters. The problem is, sometimes it’s the wrong person. Before you know it, you hit send and it’s gone.


Now your basketball coach, “Mary,” rather than your friend “Mary,” is reading about your date with explicit details.


2. Limit group emails. Do not use group emails unless it’s useful to every recipient. And be even more judicious when considering “reply all.” In rare occasions, the “reply all” button helps when compiling collective input. Otherwise, don’t use “reply all.” The “Me too!” emails are add nothing and become annoying. And “reply all” disagreements can create unwanted tension and digital backfire. Some messages are simply not for everyone to see.


3. Check spelling and tone before sending emails for professional purposes. We live in an age of speed. We are all in a hurry, but when it comes to being a digital citizen, parents need to help teenagers learn that taking the time to be accurate and appropriate in email is priceless. Emailing friends is one thing, but when emailing a boss, coach, teacher, or college admissions officer, it’s important to take a few minutes to make sure the email is error-free and appropriate in tone.


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