Tag Archives: online safety

How to Build An Online Brand

by Hope Morley

how to build an online brand

Image courtesy of photoraidz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In spring, as the saying goes, a young person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of graduation. For many graduates, that means preparing for the next phase of their lives as college students or as young working adults. Whether they’ll be interviewing for jobs, getting ready for college, or just relaxing over the summer, students should be prepared to take control of and build their online brands.

Young people are deeply invested in controlling the impression they make on their peers in the moment. But they may not be so good at anticipating the effects their speech and actions may have in the future—or on third parties who may be witnessing the conversation or behavior from the outside. For that reason, it’s never too early to talk to young people about building an online brand they can be proud of. Take advantage of existing lessons from Common Sense Media. The American Civil Liberties Union also reminds students that it is very easy for potential employers to access whatever is publicly viewable.

What is an online brand?

Your online brand is what people see when they look you up on the Internet. It’s the sum total of the information that’s publicly available about you and your online activities. And there may be more than you think there is. Have you Googled yourself lately? If you haven’t, do it now. Don’t worry—I’ll wait. (Hint: Use private browsing to see what a stranger sees.) Were you surprised by what you saw? If you were a student, how would you feel about a prospective employer seeing it, or a college admissions officer, or a coach or teacher?

Why does it matter?

Making a good impression is always a good idea. For jobseekers and students applying to institutions of higher learning, it is of the utmost importance.

Although it may feel like digital interactions take place only in an intangible cloud, that’s not the case. Our online presence can have real and lasting effects on our offline lives. Digital permanence means that the brash outspokenness of today could be the embarrassing fiasco of tomorrow. You only get one chance to make a permanent impression: the Internet is forever. Other users may take screenshots, make local copies, or otherwise preserve posts and tweets. So even if you delete your own regrettable content, a permanent record of its existence may remain.

How do I build an online brand?

Students should follow these basics for successfully building an online brand.


  • use available privacy settings to control your broadcast range on social media sites
  • differentiate between content you post publicly and what’s only appropriate to share privately
  • have your own website (about.me or Google site, for instance) where employers and recruiters can easily find, learn about, and contact you
  • actively participate in public forums authentically and constructively
  • highlight your skills and accomplishments
  • know the terms of service (TOS); be aware of what you’re signing up for


  • share your passwords with anyone: it makes you vulnerable and may be a breach of TOS
  • make available anything you wouldn’t want to talk about in a job or school interview
  • post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, or the rest of the Internet-using world to know
  • publish anything that probably won’t be true in six months, two years, or twenty years down the line

How do you cultivate your own online brand? How do you get students to think about developing theirs?

Hope bioHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

Online Safety in School: Setting Rules

by Hope Morley

online safety rules for schools

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no question that digital technologies can enhance students’ learning experience. Computers, tablets, and smartphones have made it easier than ever for students to explore the world from the comforts of their own homes and classrooms. For example, connecting with peers around the globe through Mystery Skype can spark an interest in other cultures. Blogging encourages students to participate in an open dialogue with a wide audience while sharpening their own writing and research skills.

Since students use technology on a daily basis, they may already see themselves as experts. But they may not understand why it’s important to stay safe online. That’s why it’s crucial to create and maintain an online safety policy. Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind while teaching students how to use technology safely and responsibly.

Safe Use of Mobile Devices

  • Set rules for the use of devices. Clearly state when a device should be used in class and when it should be turned off and put away. Remind students that they should only use their devices to access online content that’s been approved for in-class activities. Work with administrators to draft a written policy and have students sign an agreement to follow the rules.
  • Keep track of devices at all times. Explain that students are responsible for any devices that are brought home, and teach them the best practices for taking care of each gadget. To reduce the risk of theft, make sure that devices are never left unattended in an unlocked classroom.

Safe Blogging and Social Networking

  • Remind students to avoid sharing personal information in posts or comments. This includes surnames, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, details about family members or routines, and school name and location. Consider assigning each student a nickname to safeguard privacy.
  • Monitor blog posts and comments for potentially unsafe content. Be sure to explain to students why such posts pose safety risks.
  • Keep social networking platforms secure. If you use a web-based social learning platform such as Edmodo in class, review their best practices for safety. Make sure that students understand these practices as well. 

Safe Video Conferencing and Chats

  • Inform students, staff, and parents about all conferences and chats. Detail in writing who will participate, when the conference or chat will take place, and its purpose. This can be done in an email, such as this one from Crescent School in Toronto, sent at least two days before the event. Give parents the option to excuse their children from participating, and provide an alternate activity for these students.
  • Work with the outside participant(s) to set ground rules. Rules may include who will be present and whether the conference can be recorded. You may also want to discuss avoiding the use of surnames to protect students’ privacy.

Once you’ve developed your online safety policy, share and discuss it with students. Consider asking them to help you come up with additional guidelines.

How do you encourage your students to stay safe online?

Hope MorleyHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT

8 Tips for Teaching Digital Citizenship

by Hope Morley

Digital Citizenship

image courtesy of suphakit73 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You and your students already know what a good citizen looks like: someone who obeys the rules and laws of a community, who treats others fairly and with respect, and who works to improve his or her physical community. But what does it mean to be a good digital citizen?

Just as good citizenship involves being a responsible member of a geographic community, good digital citizenship means being a responsible member of the online community. This involvement includes understanding how to stay safe online, always treating members of the online community with respect, and being accountable for any content created and shared online. But digital citizenship is about more than just online communities. It also includes knowing how to use technology wisely, efficiently, and conscientiously. (Still don’t understand digital citizenship? Check out this infographic from An Ethical Island.)

Teach your students to become model digital citizens by encouraging them to apply the following eight tips—call them “The Three Bs”—as they participate in online communities and use technology.

Be Safe 

1.   Keep private information private. Never share your name, email address, home address, phone number, or any other personal information with anyone who you don’t know.

2.   Speak up if you feel uncomfortable. If any online interaction makes you feel uncomfortable or scared, tell a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult immediately. (Yes, this is the same advice we give to students for the real world. It’s important for students to understand that the computer doesn’t shield them from harm.)

Be Respectful

3.   Give everyone a chance to join in. Online communities are all about interacting with others. Actively engage people in conversation, and give others the opportunity to express their viewpoints.

4.   Express your opinion, but do so respectfully. Just as in real life, there are many different viewpoints expressed online. While it’s OK to express your opinion or disagree with someone, always do so with respect. Never say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

5.   Never take credit for work that isn’t your own. Copying the work of others and passing it off as your own is plagiarism, whether the information is taken from printed materials or online. This includes photos and videos too!

Be Aware

6.   Understand how to evaluate sources of information online. Not everything you see online is a reliable source of information. Official government websites and those of universities and nonprofits usually contain more reliable information than sites geared toward selling a product. To evaluate a website, ask: “Who created this site and why? What is the creator’s purpose?”

7.   Understand that online activity leaves a “digital footprint.” Once information or images have been shared online, they can be distributed widely, a process that you can’t always control. And remember that even “deleted” information may have been saved or downloaded before you took it down. Always stop and think about the possible consequences before you share any information or images online.

8.   Understand that not everyone has the same access to technology. Show respect for those who have more limited access to technology than you do. Think about ways to improve people’s access to technology—be creative!

For more student-friendly pointers on digital citizenship, check out these helpful resources from Common Sense Media and Edutopia 

Hope MorleyHope Morley is a consultant and social media coordinator for Green Light Professional Development. She writes about social media, conferences, and anything else on the web that helps both students and teachers learn. Follow her @GreenlightLT