You may hit the “like” button on this article, or retweet it to your Twitter followers. Then you may upload a photo or video to your favourite social media site and text your spouse. They’re all common activities, but do you ever wonder about how what you do online could affect your reputation?
According to new research from Microsoft, most Canadians don’t. In its survey of 5,000 respondents in Canada, U.S., Spain, Germany and Ireland, most people may want to be more mindful of how their digital actives impact their online reputations.
In Canada, 75 percent of adults and 55 percent of children aged 8-17 years old surveyed do not think about the long-term impact of their online activities on their personal reputation, and only 37 percent of adults and 41 per cent of children think about the long-term impact of their online activities on the reputations of others.
“Protecting what you share online is very important. Online information can affect your friendships, promotions and job offers. It shapes how people see you,” said John Weigelt, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada. “Without protection, your personal data can also be used against you in online fraud or by unwanted marketers. Canadians need to protect themselves and help children get into the right habits as well.”
The results showed that children could use more help managing their online reputations from their parents. Only one-third (34%) of parents surveyed help their children manage their online reputations. Children 8-14 years old are more than twice as likely to receive parental help as children 15-17 years old (66% vs. 25%). Among children who posted information online at a social networking site, children 15-17 years old were more likely to experience a negative consequence to their online reputation compared to children 8-14 years old (62% vs. 50%).
The survey also showed that uploading photos in general is not viewed as a major contributor to online profiles. While only 6 percent of adults and 9 percent of children responded that it was a major contributor, photos are considered one of the biggest influences on online reputations.
To help Canadians put their best digital foot forward, Microsoft Canada offers the following tips to help cultivate and maintain a positive online reputation:
- Think before you share.
- Think about what you are posting (particularly photos and videos), who you are sharing the information with, and how it will impact your reputation. Talk with friends and family about what you do and do not want shared about you and ask them to remove anything you don’t want disclosed.
- 11 percent of Canadian adults have been negatively impacted by the online activities of friends or family. Of those, 13 percent believed it led to being fired from a job, 8 percent being refused health care, 6 percent believed it resulted in being turned down for a job they were applying for, and 11 percent being turned down for a mortgage.
- Stay vigilant and conduct your own “reputation report” from time to time.
- Search all variations of your name in Bing and other popular search engines, and evaluate if the results reflect the reputation you’d like to share with current or future employers, colleagues, friends and family members.
- Research found that 39 percent of Canadian adults rarely or never do this.
- Consider separating your professional and personal profiles.
- When job hunting, applying to a school or looking for new insurance or a loan, remember that your overall online profile can be a determining factor for hiring managers and application reviewers. Be sure to use different email addresses, screen names, referring blogs and websites for each profile, and avoid cross-referencing personal sites.
- 56 percent of Canadian adults think about taking steps to keep their work and personal profiles private; however, 15 percent of Canadian adults have shared information online that was intended to remain private. Most commonly shared are details about one’s personal life (61%) and personal photos (35%).
- Adjust your privacy settings.
- In Internet Explorer 9 or other Web browsers, and on social networking sites, personal blogs and other places where you maintain personal data, use privacy settings to help you manage who can see your information, search for you on online networking sites, and how you can block unwanted access.
- According to our research, 34 per cent of Canadian adults do not use privacy settings on social networking sites.
- Be a good digital citizen.
- The web has a long memory. Always conduct yourself in a civil manner, showing respect for those with whom you engage.