Ninety-two percent of teens report going online daily. Thirty-one percent of college admissions officers said they visited an applicant's social networking page to learn more about them, and 93 percent of potential employers view candidates' social profiles before making a hiring decision. More than half of job recruiters have reconsidered a candidate after viewing their social pages, and 30 percent of college admission officers admitted they saw something negative that impacted the student's application.
Clearly, what teens post online matters—a lot. Social media posts about illegal drug or alcohol use, guns, and sexual topics, and posts containing improper spelling, bad grammar and profanity have been shown to have the most negative impact.
"As parents, we grew up in a different world. But now, kids' life experiences are unfolding in a public forum. As much as we are learning along with them, we need to guide them and even stay a step ahead of them," says Suzanne Podhurst, editor-in-chief of Noodle, a site dedicated to helping parents make better education decisions.
She offers these five tips for helping teens stay smart on social media and avoid jeopardizing their chances at a coveted job, internship or college admission:
1. Don't post anything not everyone should see.
"If you can't choose who is going to see it, don't post it," Podhurst says. So, if Uncle Tim would think it was funny but an admissions officer wouldn't, advise your teen against sharing. A teen should ask him or herself, "Would I be okay with everyone seeing this?" And of course, advise your teen to never post inappropriate photos.
2. Don't ignore privacy settings.
Review all privacy settings with your teen. Also, be aware of what others are posting. For example, are friends tagging your teen in photos on Facebook? You can turn off their ability to do so.
3. Don't be afraid to harness social media to your teen's advantage.
That's right; social media isn't all bad! "Your teen can bring the bullet points on a resume or application to life via social media," Podhurst says. Your child can promote favorite causes and connect with admired organizations.
4. Don't assume anything is private.
Your teen may share something in a circle of friends, but Podhurst cautions, "Anything can go public." So tell teens to err on the side of caution and not to put anything online they wouldn't want shared.
5. Parents, don't forget about your own social media presence...
...and how it impacts your teen. "Parents start creating the online identities of our kids. So have that awareness," Podhurst says.