The Insafe network of awareness centres, helplines and youth panels, in partnership with INHOPE (the International Association of Internet Hotlines, dedicated to the removal of illegal online content), operate Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Member States, Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United Kingdom in the drive to keep children and young people safe online. Through a range of services, SICs respond to the latest online issues, helping to promote the many opportunities the online world offers, while also addressing the challenges. And while Europe’s children and youth are the main benefactors of this work, the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) programme of activities also reaches out to, and collaborates with, a range of other stakeholders – parents and carers, teachers and educators, researchers, industry, civil society, decision makers and law enforcement.
The “Insafe insights…” series draws on the experience and expertise of the Insafe network to tackle some of the most topical issues encountered in its day-to-day operations. Drawing on statistics and helpline case studies, this resource aims to outline the issue and some possible responses, while also pointing to sources of further information and support.
Online reputation… a definition
Online reputation refers to the information that can be found about an individual online. This can be used by others to build up a picture of the individual in question and can often be used to provide additional information when considering someone for a job or place at college or university, for example.
In recent years online reputation has been discussed at length in the media and is often referred to as someone’s digital footprint.
The Insafe helpline network logs calls related to online reputation under the following heading:
Concerns about damage to reputation online (this may include requests for information on how to protect online reputation).
There are many companies who will offer to manage your online reputation for you. For companies, businesses and celebrities, brand and reputation are of the greatest importance and there have been many examples where one mistake has cost an individual or organisation dearly.
Experiences from the Insafe network
Concerns about online reputation typically account for around 6-7 per cent of all contacts received. The subject is something which awareness centres spend a lot of time on when visiting schools and working with children and young people. You can find several useful resources below.
Reputation has always been important but, now that so much takes place online, we all have to consider our online reputation and have some understanding about what this is and how to manage it. Unfortunately, even those individuals who have chosen not to sign up to one or more of the many social media platforms that are available today are not immune – they can still have an online reputation formed of content, data and information posted by others or that they have inadvertently shared themselves through other sites.
Research carried out by CareerBuilder highlighted the importance of having a positive online reputation with 70 per cent of employers using social media to screen candidates before hiring. Online reputation can also act as a positive with prospective employers too, with many recruiters saying that they are looking for the following online:
- Information that supports a candidate’s qualifications for a post.
- The profile provides a professional online persona.
- What other people are posting about the candidate (this is particularly important and highlights that it’s not just about what you are posting; what others are posting and content that you might be associated with can also have an impact).
The reasons for not hiring a candidate based on their digital footprint are perhaps fairly obvious:
- The candidate had posted provocative or inappropriate videos or images.
- The candidate had posted information about them drinking or taking drugs.
- The candidate had bad-mouthed their previous company or fellow employees.
- The candidate had made discriminatory comments about race, religion or gender.
- The candidate lied about their qualifications.
- The candidate has poor communication skills.
- The candidate’s screen name was unprofessional.
- The candidate posted too frequently.
A good tip is to regularly carry out a search using your name to see what content others are going to find if they do the same. Rather than just using one search engine, try a couple and see if there are differences. You could also set up a Google alert for example, so that when content is shared publicly you will receive a notification about it. If there is something that you’re not happy with then consider where it is hosted. For example, you could ask the person who posted it to remove it but of course they might not be prepared to do that. If the content breaks the terms and conditions of a site, then the site will remove it for you but be aware that not all such content will be in breach of T&Cs. If it’s something you would rather not have there, then it might be possible to have it removed from search engine results using the right to be forgotten legislation. Remember, however, that this will not remove content from the web but only from the search results. In such cases, a right to erasure request form must be completed. Another useful strategy is to flood the internet with positive content. For example, set up a blog or leave constructive comments on social media posts or news sites; very quickly the content that you don’t want people to see will be pushed much further down the search results.
Insafe helpline case studies
Insafe helplines frequently receive contacts from children and young people with concerns about their online reputation.
A teenage girl contacted the Romanian helpline to explain that someone else had made an Instagram account using her name and data. The profile already had 11 posts with different photos of her. The girl wanted to know what could be done and was concerned that the photos and content could damage her reputation. The helpline explained about the reporting options that are available on Instagram and discussed some of the privacy settings in more detail. The counsellor talked about the importance of being in control of content and the difference between public and private settings.
A teenage boy contacted the Irish helpline and explained that someone was making false allegations about him on Snapchat. The allegations were serious, claiming that he had raped a girl. Apparently, lots of people believed the allegations and the boy was very worried as his parents had initially believed them too. He was finding it very difficult to cope and was hurt that anyone would think it was okay to do this to him. He was finding it hard to sleep and had missed a lot of school as a result. He felt that everyone was talking about the situation and he continued to receive unpleasant messages on Snapchat. The counsellor listened to the caller and empathised with him. They then explored various options to deal with the situation. The caller decided that he would close his Snapchat account and seek support from the school counsellor.
Safer Internet Centres have developed various educational resources and awareness-raising videos aimed at helping teachers, parents and carers, and children and young people, to discover the online world safely. A selection of resources touching on issues relating to online reputation are detailed below:
- French Safer Internet Centre: Game "Think about what you publish on the Internet" - a game which enables children to manage a fictional social network account. They must decide which photos to publish, who should be allowed to see them, which pieces of information to share, and so on. At the end of the game, the child has access to a personalised review and an example of an ideal behaviour (in French).
- Greek Safer Internet Centre: Forming a positive internet reputation – a downloadable presentation resource on online reputation (in Greek).
- Slovenian Safer Internet Centre: Do you share too much (inappropriate) content on social media? – a simple online quiz about oversharing on social media (in Slovenian).
- UK Safer Internet Centre: Guide on online resources – covers a range of issues such as why online reputation matters, understanding digital footprints, removing negative content and references, and seeking further help (in English).
- UK Safer Internet Centre: Online reputation checklist – a simple checklist for young people to help manage and maintain a positive online reputation (in English).
- UK Safer Internet Centre: Professional reputation – a guide for teachers and professionals to help protect their online reputation (in English).
Many more resources are available from the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) resource gallery, covering a whole range of online safety issues in a variety of languages.
Further information and advice
For further information and advice, please contact your national Safer Internet Centre (SIC).
To keep up to date with safer and better internet issues more generally, visit this website often, subscribe to the quarterly BIK bulletin, or check out the Insafe Facebook page and Insafe Twitter profile.