Teenagers across the world use the Internet everyday to chat with friends, upload pictures to Facebook, share videos on YouTube, and do a million other things. But while they’re surfing the Web, are they thinking about their online privacy?

The information that people share online affects them in countless ways, from how they see Internet ads to how they appear to hiring managers or future bosses. For teens, maintaining a strong online reputation is perhaps even more critical because one mistake early on can directly affect their life down the road. This article will offer some online privacy tips for teens.

Privacy Tip 1: Think of who is watching you on the Web

Even though you may think the information you are putting into your profile is safe and can only be seen by you and your friends, that is not always the case. Before posting anything on to the Web, you should consider who might see it and how the information you are posting could affect your online reputation.

One suggestion is to first ask yourself if the information you are entering into your profile is something you want everyone to know. If the answer is no, then do not share it online. This is particularly true of sharing photos. Here’s a possible scenario where online photos could be harmful to your reputation. Imagine you went to a party at your friend’s house and you took all the cool pictures of the wild things you and your friends were doing. Some of them are not as decent as others but you think they would be cool on your Facebook page.

Now, realize that you really want to attend a top-notch college like Yale or Harvard. If an admissions specialist is thinking of accepting you and decides to look up your profile on Facebook, you may have just exposed elements of your personal life that could reflect negatively on you as an applicant. The same thing goes for potential employers later in life. This isn’t necessarily fair, but it’s a reality that all teens must face.  Keep these online privacy tips for teens in mind.

Privacy Tip 2: Avoid friend requests from strangers

Another good rule to follow is to only accept friend requests from people whom you know in real life, such as friends from school. You should never accept friend requests from someone you have never met before personally.

Cybercriminals, scammers, and cyberbullies will intentionally misrepresent their identity, age, or intentions on social networking websites to take advantage of naive social media users. You might think that blindly accepting friend requests to pad your friend numbers will make you look cool and popular, but in reality it’s just a way of putting your safety at risk.

To avoid friend requests from individuals you don’t know, make sure to set your privacy controls as high as possible. Keeping your Facebook account secure means that strangers will not be able to find you through general searches and that you can only share information with pre-approved friends.

For advice on maximizing your Facebook privacy settings, check out this article from the Reputation.com Resource Center. Better yet, sign up for PrivacyDefender from Reputation.com and control your privacy settings with the click of a button.

Privacy Tip 3: Keep your personal information secure

Kids and teenagers are ripe targets for identity thieves because they do not typically maintain tight control over their finances (allowing financial fraud to go undetected for many years) and because they are in the habit of over-sharing information online (despite persistent pleas from parents to do the opposite).

To avoid losing control over your identity, it is important that you do not post any sensitive info to the Web. Some of the things teens should keep off the Internet as a matter of course include their home address, phone number, e-mail address, account passwords, Social Security number, and any kind of financial information.

Furthermore, you shouldn’t post any information about your family. Comments about your parents may seem like an acceptable thing to share with friends, but you should keep them off of the Internet. If you mention that your dad is complaining about his job or that your mom nearly got into a car accident and cussed out another driver, that could reflect poorly on their reputations. This goes back to the first tip: always think about what you’re sharing before you share it, because you never know who is watching.

If you do run into a problem online, whether it’s a cyberbully or an identity thief, you shouldn’t hesitate to tell your parents. Getting out and on top of an Internet problem is the best way of preventing long-term reputation damage.  Hopefully, these online privacy tips for teens have been of help.