A good reputation takes a long time to earn, but can be carelessly lost very quickly and easily. Does that sound very much like a lecture from our parents a long time ago?
In this day and age, with the digital world merging into the real world, this proposition holds even more weight. Can you imagine if Facebook or Instagram existed when we were teenagers?
I guess it comes as no surprise that in this digital age and the proliferation of social networks, it’s now possible to lose a hard-earned reputation very quickly indeed!
People are increasingly conscious of both the online and offline worlds when it comes to maintaining a good reputation. Almost every aspect of the real world is now online – from banks and retail shops, to books and movies and games – so everyone can have a good understanding of who you are thanks to the digital footprint you leave behind.
For example, employers now conduct their own ‘background check’ before short listing or hiring a potential candidate – a quick look on social media platforms, and they already have first impressions of you.
Whether it is through email, or social media or through an online multi-player game, we are creating a digital reputation whether we are intending to or not.
As adults we manage our own online behaviour to best reflect the reputation we would like to project. We are generally aware that when we send an email, or post pictures, messages and comments on social media, or on news sites, that we are leaving an electronic imprint of ourselves that can, not only, last a very long time but can be easily traced back as well.
Children and young adults on the other hand, aren’t generally aware they are exposed to reputation issues right from the start of their “digital lives”. Kids as young as 3 years old usually get initiated to the digital world via games on smartphones, tablets or PCs; once they turn 7-8 years old, their digital presence gets escalated to online games such as Minecraft and Clash of Clans.
As parents, we need to understand our kids don’t instinctively ensure they are playing within a safe online environment.
They also aren’t aware that their interactions with other gamers in the online gaming space can hinder their online reputation, potentially for years to come.
Xbox One introduced a new community-powered reputation model to help regulate online gaming behaviours and expose the players to avoid such as cheats, jerks or verbally abusive ones. It gathers direct feedback from gamers that gets translated into a colour-coded reputation score assigned to each player; Green = Good Player, Yellow = Needs Improvement or Red = Avoid Me. Each player’s reputation score will be featured on his/her gamer card accessible for all other gamers to view.
What I find interesting with this reputation model is that your reputation score is ultimately up to you. Xbox One’s algorithm will help identify players that are repeatedly disruptive on Xbox Live and will call out players with a lower reputation score. Before a player ends up with the “Avoid Me” reputation, the “Needs Improvement” player will receive many different alerts reminding him/her how his/her social gaming conduct is affecting other gamers.
This level of scrutiny in monitoring online gamers’ behaviours is music to my ears because it empowers parents, like myself, to educate children about best practices when playing online in order to maintain a good reputation score, and how to identify gamers they can interact with and who are the ones to avoid.
We can raise our kids the best we know how and teach them appropriate behaviours, but we have no idea how they are behaving and/or what they are exposed to in the online gaming space. Are they being the jerks or are they the victims of the jerks? Either way, none are situations we would want our kids to be in.
As far as managing their online reputation is concerned, any parent wants their kids to behave properly anytime, anywhere including in the online gaming space. We need to be mindful that the repercussions of earning an “Avoid Me” reputation today for example, can go much further than just getting temporarily suspended from the game, but can really impact the adult years of our children.
As a parent, I think it is definitely worth asking the question “who is responsible for my child’s online behaviour and online reputation?” I would argue that the responsibility is not so different in the online world as it is in ‘real life’. I strongly believe it is the responsibility of the parents to teach kids the rights and wrongs of good citizenship, which also means good digital citizenship.
These kinds of issues related to online behaviour and online reputation should be an ongoing dialogue between parents and their kids because technology is constantly evolving, just as new apps, new games and new social platforms continue to arise.
As kids are reaching digital literacy from a much younger age nowadays, parents also need to keep up with the technology, take necessary steps to understand the digital world in which children play, relax, socialise and engage. By doing so, parents will be in a better position to guide their kids’ journey through the digital world and ensure they maintain a good online reputation, because in the digital world, nothing disappears.
Everything can be tracked back quite easily.
At the end of the day, it is the kids’ behaviour. They are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of their online behaviour in the real world, but it is our responsibility as parents to ensure they have the tools, resilience and confidence to manage their reputation.
While we can’t monitor every single second that our child spends online, it is so important that we, as parents, provide all the information to our kids about how online behaviour through online games or social media can impact their lives in the future and continue to have this conversation with them.
Make sure they are aware that their behaviour online and the digital footprint they leave behind, reflect the person they want to be.