Social media has become a big part of everyday life; it's used for fun, professionally, or even to stay informed on important topics trending on a day-to-day basis. For high school students enrolling in college, it's important to understand that your online presence today can affect opportunities years from now, and not always in a positive way. Here are some things that you - as a student - can do to give you a better online presence, and how you - as a parent - can protect your kids from making mistakes that could cost them a better future.
Don't Depend on Privacy Settings
Even though privacy settings are a great way to protect yourself from people who don't know you, they can't protect you against people who do know you. If you're posting things on your social media sites that are considered "bad behavior," people you have added on your friends list can screen shot your profile and send it to administrators, who are required to follow-up on tips like these.
Don't use offensive language, racial slurs, or post pictures of yourself being involved in disrespectful or incriminating situations, such as parties involving alcohol or public vandalism. Administrators look for these things to see how you'll act at their school and treat their campus.
Show What you're made of
Post about things you're interested in. If you love photography, show off your camera skills on Instagram. Like to write? Create a blog and upload links on Facebook to your writing. If reading is your thing, tweet about your favorite books or follow your favorite author's page. Are you a dancer or musician? Upload a video of your performance to YouTube. These are great ways to show universities what you're interested in and that you're passionate about real hobbies, as well as finding other people who share your favorite things.
Don't post offensive content under a nickname or other alias. It might make you harder to find online, but you aren't as hidden as you think. Once something is posted on the Internet, it'll always be there for someone to find - connecting the dots isn't hard. Try to remember that potential universities aren't always looking for red flags; they may be trying to see what your interests are or if you're right for a special scholarship or program. They might just be trying to put a face to your paperwork. You want them to see who you are and why you're right for their school.
Shoot Your Chosen School a Friend Request
Add universities to your friend list or follow their social media site. This will keep you informed on events at the university, like when the semester will start or if they are having an advisory day. Staying informed of your college will put you ahead of the pack, and it also lets the schools see that you're genuinely interested in attending after you graduate from high school. Follow more than one school to keep your options open, and let your chosen colleges know they have competition and that you take your education seriously.
Set Parental Controls
If you're a parent of a student, check with your cable company or Internet provider and see what parental controls are offered. TV providers like Directv offer great parental controls that let you be in charge of the websites your student checks out as well as channels, movies, and even specific shows that aren't age appropriate. You can't control everything they see or hear, but that doesn't mean they should be unprotected in your home. There is also software available that'll let you view your Internet browsing history, even if it has been deleted. Talk with your student and explain the seriousness of their online presentation.
Whether you're a high school student or a concerned parent, it's important to acknowledge the dangers of social media. Learn to use your social media sites to your advantage and take control of your future. Don't let a silly mistake your freshman year ruin your college chances.