Teaching the Importance of Personal Reputation Management to Youth

Photo credit: Ross Catrow on Flickr.In case you missed it, on Saturday, August 6, 2011, the Web turned 20 years old.

As reported in an article on techcrunch.com, titled “The Web is 20 Years Old Today,” Sir Berners-Lee created the world’s first website, a placeholder page written in the then-nascent hypertext markup language, on August 6, 1991.

That post, 20 years ago, changed the world… literally.

Everything that we do, from the way that we communicate with our friends and family to the way that we do business, has been influenced, at least somewhat, by that one moment in time.

That’s pretty heavy stuff, if you really think about it.

Access to Information

As a member of Gen X, if I think hard enough, I can still remember what it was like before the World Wide Web was born.

In the summer of 1991, I was a 17-year-old high school student, thinking about what my senior year would be like and what college I would attend.

Although there are many similarities, being a teenager today is very different than it was for teens growing up just a decade or two ago.

Teens today have access to many more resources than my generation did, thanks to the World Wide Web.

For example, when given the task of writing a report about a famous public figure or historical event, students in my generation had to schlep their way to the public library or open an Encyclopedia Britannica. (I can even remember doing research for reports on microfiche. Many teens today would probably say, “What?”)

Instead, students today can find the same information, and much more, right from the comfort of their own home (or wherever they choose to be.)

Think about it, the World Wide Web has given all of us access to numerous websites with tons of information. And, with search engines like Google, finding that information is only a few mouse clicks away.

Furthermore, with the increased connectivity that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have given us, teens might be able to get information about public figures straight from the source.

However, teens today also have things to think about that my generation didn’t have to.

Privacy and Personal Reputation Management

As mentioned in a recent article on pcmag.com, titled “The Permanence Of Posting Online,” there are many reasons why people of all ages should be concerned about privacy issues.

The article points to the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, Facebook’s new facial-recognition technology, and the revelation that almost every password that you can imagine is not secure, given the fact that the processing power of Intel’s Core i7 processor, alone, is enough to crack almost any password… within minutes.

These are all things to consider when examining privacy issues.

Now, add in the recklessness of youth, and you have a situation that could potentially damage a person’s reputation for many years.

As the article points outs, “At least one survey is out that says 33 percent of all teens have posted or sent a nude or semi-nude pic of themselves to someone or other. This is an outrageously high number and should be a concern to everyone, especially the teens. And 59 percent of all young adults say they have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages.”

The author points out that the current generation of teenagers and young adults might not be so concerned about privacy now, but that might change in the future when they have trouble finding a job because of a photograph that they posted on Flickr.

Conclusion

Some people might ask why I am writing this post given the fact that this is a marketing blog.

However, you need to remember that business does not exist in a vacuum. As I have said before, your employees are people, too.

Furthermore, your customers have increased access to your employees through social media, and like it or not, the reputation that your employees have can influence the way your customers see your brand.

That’s one reason why personal reputation management is such an important thing.

So important, that I feel that it should be taught to all students in every high school in the United States.

At a minimum, this is something that parents should be teaching their children at an early age. (Note: An article posted on latimes.org, titled “Worried about your kids’ safety online? You should be,” has some suggestions that parents might be able to use when talking to their children about personal reputation management.)

The World Wide Web has given us access to a lot of cool things in the last 20 years.

However, as Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft Corporation, said in a speech in 2002, “Technology brings a host of wonders and conveniences, but it also brings with it new problems and challenges.”

This is something to consider the next time you open your Web browser.

Photo credit: Ross Catrow on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.