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Your Digital Kids

Kids Get Hip to Online Reputations

Kids are getting an A for effort and bypassing their parents in learning how to manage their online reputations. According to a Pew Internet study, kids who use social media do, in fact, care about their reputations. “Young adults, far from being indifferent about their digital footprints, are the most active online reputation managers in several dimensions. For example, more than two-thirds (71%) of social networking users aged 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online” and are more likely to do so than older users (55%). Forty-four percent limit the amount of personal information they put online, compared to users aged 30-49 (33%), 50-64 (25%), and 65+ (20%). Forty-seven percent delete unwanted comments, compared to 29% of users 30-49 and 26% of users 50-64.

And in the Internet safety world, products are appearing to keep kids safe, in a dialog with their parents, and still let them enjoy the benefits of social networking.

A couple of new products make it easier than ever to encourage this sort of behavior. Some are more traditional than others, but each deals with online reputation management. SafetyWeb could just be considered a new monitoring product. It’s a service that lets you enter your child’s email and then does a search for them on the major social networks and photosharing sites. You’ll be able to see their public comments on Facebook, MySpace, Photobucket, and more. A quick search found my son on five networks, but missed his Facebook profile. The service costs $10 a month.

Similarly, a service called ReputationDefender will, for $14.95 a month, produce a report of your kid’s activities, including everything from photos they post to chats they have. ReputationDefender also works for business people and adults who want the less desirable things in their online history to show up at the bottom, rather than the top, of a Google search. created a summer list to help parents in need of laying down the law on rules and best practices. Included are the basics like urging parents to become web savvy and know what’s on the web. Sounds like common sense, but it’s nice to see web software companies take action beside their core competency of blocking and filtering.

TrendMicro figured that, if kids were going to be a bit frightened about the consequences of inappropriate Internet behavior, then they might as well have their tutelage come from other kids. A contest where kids produced their own PSAs resulted in “Overexposed,” produced by Nicholas Chen and Edan Freiberger, which gets its slightly funny, slightly scary message across in under two minutes (watch it here). Contestants submitted 120 videos over six weeks; 40% of them were under age 18.

One of my favorite new approaches is not Internet safety at all; it’s an online community that’s been likened to Facebook on training wheels. Togetherville allows parents with Facebook accounts to create a kids’ safe area where they can stay in touch with family and friends that parents approve. Messages are confined to those you can select from a pick list. There are art games, photosharing, and mom and dad help pick your friends.

As tools get better, as education continues to be a focus, and as kids witness their own peers falling prey to Internet shenanigans, you can bet we’ll see more and more new answers emerging.