Microsoft Offers Tips to U.S. Teens & Parents on Good Digital Citizenship

A new Microsoft study shows that before posting personal information online, more than half of U.S. teens and parents don’t truly consider the potential consequences of their actions. Teens recognize the importance of limiting what they share online, yet they still reveal more personal data than their parents. Six in 10 teens also say they have “friends” in their social networks whom they’ve never met in person.

Chances are, you already have a “digital reputation,” and you may not even know it. On the Internet, we create an image of ourselves through the information we share in blogs, comments, tweets, photos, videos and the like. Others add their opinions – both good and bad – and contribute to our online reputations. Anyone can find this information and make judgments. Accordingly, everyone needs to be cognizant of what they’re posting online, and how that aggregated information can tell one’s personal story and shape their digital impression.

A recent Microsoft survey found that 79 percent of hiring U.S. managers and job recruiters routinely review online reputational information when considering job applicants. All of the sudden, that photo of you partying hardy or playing a practical joke on a friend may not be so funny.

Managing one’s online behavior and reputation is a key component of being a good digital citizen. Digital citizenship is usually defined as “the norms of behavior with regard to technology use.” However, digital citizenship is more than just teaching social norms – it’s a way to prepare young people for life in a technology-rich society. Digital citizenship empowers young people and helps them develop a sense of ownership and personal responsibility – in order to make appropriate, ethical decisions in the online world.

In an effort to create a culture of “good digital citizens,” Microsoft is committed to helping youth, teens, parents and caregivers think about their online reputations. Today, we are releasing a new whitepaper titled “Fostering Digital Citizenship” and a Teen Reputation Guide. The guide notes a series of tips, including:

· Tip 1 – If you wouldn’t wear it, Don’t share it!

· Tip 2 – Don’t use technology as a weapon. Really angry? Walk away from the keyboard.

· Tip 3 – Know what the Internet is telling people about you. Regularly search yourself online.

· Tip 4 – Create strong passwords, change them often, and don’t share them with friends.

We make a host of digital citizenship resources available at our Safety & Security Center. In addition to our research, reputation guide and whitepaper we’ve recently created three infographics, depicting how teens spend their time online, as well as an “at school” Internet safety tip card. We participate actively in industry coalitions, and partner with groups such as iKeepSafe, the Ad Council and the Family Online Safety Institute, supporting their efforts to help educate adults and youth about good cyber citizenship. 

Rather than relying solely on protective measures, an approach to online safety that includes digital citizenship will help young people interact more safely in the online world. Teaching them about digital literacy and digital ethics and etiquette is no longer merely an option – it is an imperative.

About the Author

Director, Online Safety, Microsoft