I wish every high school student had a librarian like Joyce Valenza! Many do, probably, but I hope they hear what Joyce tells the junior class at her school about social media and online reputations. As they prep to apply to colleges and universities, she gives them solid data, resources, and advice, as she relates in her blog at SchoolLibraryJournal.com. She suggests that they replace those kid or party-animal email addresses with serious ones; tells them that “70% of colleges say that the Facebook profiles of candidates are … a medium or high priority in the admissions process” (Twitter and YouTube being checked out too); and she has them search for themselves in eight search engines *besides* Google (please go to her blog post to get the links). She reports that the good news is, that for the most part–in 68% of cases–their social network profiles served to help the students applicant.” In her post, she also displays and links to a poster with tons of information on how to manage your online reputation. It’s more geared to adult professionals but there’s lots of useful info for high schoolers too – because they’re professional students, right?
Parents may want to note what the e-reputations poster says about “being digitally non-existent”: “Not having a social presence [online] can be a detriment in this day and age.” That may be less true for students, but with 95% of all teens now online and 80% of them using social media, as Pew Internet says, those who don’t participate online increasingly stand out and may attract extra questions. But the most important thing to note about online reputations, I think, is that they’re never only online – because social networking is embedded in offline life, school life. What anybody finds in a search engine is only a snapshot of a whole life. Reputations aren’t made or fixed online only. [See also: "School libraries: Vital filter developers."]