You might think you know what your teen’s digital footprint looks like to a stranger (you probably don’t but bear with us). By stranger we don’t mean a troll or predator but especially if your kids are younger, that’s a valid concern; we’re talking about someone who will be making a decision about your teen’s future, like a college admissions officer or a future employer. We thought we’d take a look at what a perfectly average teen’s online persona does look like and what that might mean.
We generated a Social Score report for an American, football playing 16-year old boy last month and after the results were available we had a chance to have a back and forth discussion with one of his parents. The feedback was great. Without going into any more specifics about the teen, we thought we’d use this example to point out a few things that some parents might be missing.
If you’re not familiar with it, our Social Score is a report that evaluates a subject’s public online profile and activity. When a parent signs up, we don’t ask for user names or passwords, or install any software on the teen’s devices. Based on limited information provided by the parents (name, school, town, age, email address) we evaluate the teen’s digital footprint based on age-appropriate safety measures and conduct.
Here’s what we found:
Facebook – Account found; set to private.
Twitter – Account found; set to public. 539 posts (including 9 pictures and 1 video) over 2 ½ years. We flagged two inappropriate posts (one possibly racist, one mildly homophobic). Both were retweets of other accounts – not written by the subject himself.
Instagram – Account found; set to private.
Vine – Account found; set to public. A couple of dozen video loops were posted. All were reposts – no original content. We flagged one video which included extreme adult content of a sexual nature.
Ask.fm – Account found; set to public (all Ask.fm accounts are public). 3 questions answered over a year and a half. Nothing inappropriate found.
Google+ – Account found; set to public. Nothing there. (That is normal – for a couple of years you had to have a Google+ account in order to have a YouTube account)
YouTube – Account found; set to public. No videos posted. Several dozen videos liked; all video game related. 3 channels subscribed to; all teen appropriate content. Nothing inappropriate found.
No other social media accounts or online identities found.
As you can see above, the teen scored an “A” for safety and an “F”, or failed score, for appropriate conduct.
After receiving the Social Score, the parents had the teen delete the inappropriate posts, which is easy to do since the report includes links to or screenshots of problem content or inappropriate interactions. He also set his Vine account to private and changed his Twitter handle to his real name.
A few highlights from our follow up conversations with the parents:
Were the parents aware of his presence on 7 social networks? – They had no idea.
We asked them to ask him why some accounts were private and some were set to public – They did, and he himself had no idea. He doesn’t use Facebook any more and couldn’t remember why it was private. Instagram he does use and didn’t know it was set to private. The others he hadn’t even considered the privacy settings.
We asked them what his reaction was to a stern talking-to – “I think it was a real wake up call for him.”
On why he reposted others’ inappropriate material – It seemed funny at the time.
As we said earlier, this looks like a totally average teen to us – a good kid whose sense of humor tends to be a little racy. There was no cyberbullying and no posts authored by him that were profane or referenced illegal activity. He is also typical in that (a) he doesn’t (until now) give a lot of thought to whether his online activity is public or private, and (b) he hadn’t considered how what he was posting might look to other people.
If a random stranger was trying to evaluate his character based on his Twitter and Vine accounts prior to his parents signing up for a Social Score, we think there’s good chance that the outcome would be less than ideal.
If you’re concerned that your teen’s online activity may be a risk, your can sign up for a Social Score today. You either get the peace of mind knowing that all is okay or an easy roadmap to help fix what needs fixing.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
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