ProtectMyRep: Social media tool for teens, made in Minnesota

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Sometimes I talk to high school classes about online reputation management. I’ve learned that kids have not heard of LinkedIn. It doesn’t always occur to them that a SnapChat picture might not disappear after 10 seconds – if an enterprising recipient is quick with a screen capture. They don’t realize that even if they do have privacy settings on, if their friends don’t, I can probably learn a quite a bit about them from the friends – especially if their friends are my friends. Something to consider, especially in a small town. They are users of social media but they’re not strategic. To be fair a lot of us weren’t that strategic at age 16, but we weren’t leaving digital fingerprints behind.

I was excited to read about a new website (ProtectMyRep) that helps kids learn about how and why to take control of their online reputation. It was created by a program at the University of St Thomas. The site includes stories from college kids about their mishaps online, a few words from decision makers (such as college admissions) about how they use social media to research candidates and how to manage privacy settings and clean up a less-than-stellar online reputation. The Minneapolis Star Tribune describes the site and the role it’s playing in local schools…

Protectmyrep.org is part instruction and part reality check. It shows teens how to increase privacy settings and repair past mistakes. Teens can watch short videos in which an employer, college counselor, Army recruiter and others describe how they monitor social media and judge young people based on what they see.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman explains that teens have free-speech rights. But when a teen threatened to shoot up EdinaHigh School and posted photos of himself holding a gun, Freeman’s office had to take the threat seriously.

Now schools are inviting ThreeSixty’s staff members to come and help their teachers, parents and teens understand the great power and lure of social media — as well as its risks. One of the state’s new Common Core standards requires that high school students learn to “recognize ethical standards and safe practices in social and personal media communications, and understand the consequences of personal choices.”

Few teachers feel equipped to tackle this massive task. They need training and good resources. And they need help from parents, coaches and other adults who care about teens.

I think it’s a good site. When I talk to classes, I like to add that it’s more than protecting your reputation – it’s building and managing a reputation that will get you into college, into a job, into an apartment and maybe out on a nice date. You can approach it the same way a business looks at brand management: decide the story you want to tell (Are you an artist, a geek, an athlete?), use social media channels to tell and reinforce the story and make sure your friends stay on script too.