Be careful: break the internet, not your personal brand
What happens on the internet, stays on the internet, and this is not a good thing.
Whilst the digital revolution has changed our society for the better, it has also brought along a set of new risks.
Poor, careless and reckless online behaviour, for instance, can have serious consequences - in the short and the long run.
Our children must come to terms with this before they do irreparable damage to their personal brands, impacting their chances of succeeding in life. It may sound strange, but this is where games can help.
In the analogue past, life was easy. Good report cards meant you stood a better chance of getting into the university of your choice, with good academic performances helping you strike it lucky on the employment front.
Today, youngsters need more than good grades and an excellent CV to land their dream job.
Besides looking at candidates' study results and resumés, employers care a great deal about the character of those they seek to employ.
What you are saying and sharing online, and how you are interacting with others on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have become crucial factors, too.
According to a 2018 survey by global recruiter CareerBuilder, 70% of bosses screen their candidates' social media track records before even inviting them for an interview.
Of those companies doing social research, 57% have found content that caused them not to hire a certain candidate.
Red flags include provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (40%), racist, sexist and other derogatory comments and posts (31%), poor communication skills (27%), and unprofessional screen names (22%).
The trick is to talk to youngsters about how to properly communicate, interact and share information online in a language they understand and in a way that grabs their attention.
The days of wagging fingers and one-way communication are long gone. This is where interactive storytelling, augmented reality and even games come in.
The University of the Western Cape (UWC) launched one such game earlier this year.
The Ultimate Celebrity Manager teaches young adults about what can make and break their online reputation.
By playing as a manager, trying to control the reputation of a celebrity, the messaging is subtle and not threatening, yet drives the underlying messages.
Another platform that helps youngsters become good digital citizens is The Carnegie Cyber Academy. The same applies to The Second Adventure of The Three CyberPigs, a game by Canadian EduTech company Media Smarts, which teaches children aged 8 to 10 how to recognise harmful content online and what the basic online etiquette rules are.
Proper online behaviour boils down to a few principles.
Firstly, make sure your online persona matches your offline persona at all times. Always be the same person, whether you are having a discussion with gaming buddies via WhatsApp or with a friend in class.
Secondly, be aware that the person reading your comments and messages is a real human being with feelings and not an anonymous screen or robot.
Finally, the information you share via social media, messaging platforms and other channels must be true and accurate at all times.
Don't break your personal image in an attempt to break the internet.
*Lekoma is head of client services at Sea Monster.