From the Principal's Office: Teaching Active Reputation Management: 5 Steps for Sanitizing Facebook Accounts

“Collectively, all of the digital content you create, and that others create about you, becomes your online reputation. And today, that’s the reputation that matters the most.” Matt Ivester, lol…OMG! What Every Student Needs to Know about Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying

In his book, lol...OMG! What Every Student Needs to Know about Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship and Cyberbullying, Matt Ivester repeatedly cautions high school students that “What we do in the digital world often lasts forever,” and that they need to take whatever actions necessary to engage in “Active Reputation Management.” That "Active Reputation Management" includes both proactive measures students can use to keep from sharing content harmful to their reputations, and it also includes measures that students can use to "sanitize" or clean-up damaging content already posted.

While it is true that once something is shared online, it is probably permanent, that does not mean students can't make an effort to sanitize their shared content that could give college admissions officers and future employers the wrong impression. In doing that, Ivester offers students some sound advice. That advice is: Begin today cleaning up all the online accounts and services where you have shared and created content, starting with your Facebook account.

Facebook Sanitation Process
(Can be used for other content sharing sites too.)

1. Review your profile information. Remove anything that might reflect on you in a negative way with future employers and college admission officers. View the information from the perspective of a potential employer or college admissions officer. Or, as Ivester suggests, have a trusted teacher or another adult review the content. Information shared in a social media profile can create an impression of you that you don't want others to have just as much as the content you have shared.

2. Examine all the pages that you have liked, and disassociate yourself from those that might reflect on you personally in a negative manner. For example, if you have "liked" a page that reflects values or beliefs that are discriminatory, someone looking at that might view you as having that same inclination. The pages we "like" on Facebook communicate a message about us as much as the content we share.

3. Examine all other pages associated with your account and remove those associations or pages that reflect on you negatively or have the potential to give improper perceptions. Careful examination of any additional pages you have created in Facebook is a must. Make sure that none of those reflect values that give visitors to your page the wrong impression about you as a person.

4. Review all your photos and videos. Purge those that might be misunderstood or reflect on you in a negative manner. For example, many young people post pictures of themselves having fun at a party or at the beach. If in one of the photos or videos they are acting foolishly or holding an alcohol product, a potential employer or college admissions officer might get the wrong impression.

5. Go back and review your timeline from the start. Remove any posts that can be misunderstood or reflects on you in a negative manner. This is important. Everyone should go back and review their Facebook timeline from time to time, and do so with a critical eye. While we like to think what we share there is only seen by our "friends," we know that once posted, it can be shared with others we don't know. In that manner, a comment we made 3 years ago might come back to haunt us with a future employer or college admissions officer.

As Ivester suggests, active reputation management involves reviewing the content created and viewing that content from the perspective of others. As 21st century educators we can and should teach students how to manage their online reputations. With these five steps, students can begin the process by sanitizing their Facebook accounts, and in turn begin the process of repairing their online reputations. Then, these same five steps can be repeated for all personal content sharing sites too. This is one way to ensure that their youthful indiscretions do not negatively impact their futures.

On a side note, Matt Ivester's book is an excellent resource for high school students. Using real examples, he takes students through all the ways sharing content can cause consequences they would rather avoid. Then, he gives them strategies they can use to both proactively and actively manage their online reputations and lives. This book might make an excellent graduation gift.

cross posted at

J. Robinson has decades of experience as a K12 Principal, Teacher, and Technology Advocate. Read more at The 21st Century Principal.