George Lucas Educational Foundation

What Does Your Digital Reputation Say About You?

What Does Your Digital Reputation Say About You?

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I work with student teachers in a teacher credentialing program in California and noticed that some of them didn't quite understand the ramifications of posting inappropriate pictures or conversations to their social media accounts. So, I wrote them the following in an email since the annual job fair was coming up soon. I received some positive feedback from my students and thought I'd share in case others could benefit.

You’ve been waiting for this day for a long time and it is finally here, the job fair!
For the past year you have worked hard at your teaching placement. You’re learning about the importance of classroom management, building rapport with students and curriculum development.

So as you prepare to attend the job fair this week, I want to encourage you to do a few things that you might not think of as a big deal, but can truly mean the difference between you getting offered a job or not.

First, I want you to take some time to research your digital reputation.
Why is this important? It’s important because many of you are from a generation that has grown up with the Internet as a constant companion. If the Internet could talk and tell us all about you, what would that sound like or look like?  

You are going into a profession where what you say, how you dress and what you do in various situations will be seen and heard by children and adults. So what you do on-land is one thing, but what does your digital reputation say about you on-line?

According to a 2012 research study by, 37% of companies were using the Internet to screen applicants. That was 3 years ago. I’m sure that percentage is much higher today. Students – your future boss is looking. They want to see what your digital reputation says about you. Why do they do this? Because they know that your colleagues, parents and even your students are looking too. They want to know that you are a professional that can be trusted to work with children and will represent the school district in the most positive and professional manner possible . . . on-land and on-line.

Below I have outlined 2 ways that you can examine your digital footprint and determine if you need to do some “cleaning” before the recruitment fair.

1. “Google” yourself.

But not just any ol’ Google search. I want you to do what’s called an “Advanced” Google search. An Advanced Google search is much different than a regular Google search because it is actually filtering out the webpages that simply have nothing to do with you.

In order to do this you will need to put quotation marks around your full name. This filters the search so that your name is searched as a complete term, rather than pulling up thousands of webpages with your first name and last name as separate terms.

Try it by first searching your full name without quotation marks and take notice of how many results come back, then do the search again but this time with quotation marks around your full name. You’ll typically see a significant decrease.

I would also add your city as part of the search query, but outside of the quotation marks. You’d be surprised how many people out on the Internet have your same name. It doesn’t hurt to see what your namesake’s are up to out in the World Wide Web. It’s good to know just in the event there’s someone out there with a not-so-positive digital reputation.

So now what? Well, depending on what you’ve found, you may need to go through and change some privacy settings or delete unprofessional-looking pictures.

Which leads me to my second suggestion . . .

2. Check your privacy settings on ALL personal social media accounts.

I’m talking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, etc. Anything that is not set to private is viewable by the public. This means that not only could I see your photos from last year’s New Year’s Eve festivities, but I could also see conversations you have posted with friends.

I put together a quick list of links, but you should make a list of all social media accounts that you own and check each of them.

  • Facebook Privacy - When logged into your FB account, just type in and it will automatically take you to the page where you can adjust your settings based on whom you would like to have access. It will also give you an option to see your FB profile from the public view (someone who is not a friend, just merely searching for you).
  • Instagram Privacy - I’m not on Instagram, so I can’t give you the details, but here is the direct link that has all of the information:
  • Twitter Privacy - Here is a great article on how to know if your tweets are public or protected:
  • For other social media accounts, just login and search for the privacy settings option. I would encourage you to clean up your digital footprint by deleting or changing the privacy settings to all of your personal accounts online.

While you’re at it, add the most professional-looking picture you have as a profile pic, because regardless of your privacy settings, your profile picture is (almost) always publicly viewable. Also, ladies, PLEASE don’t use a kissy-face selfie . . .and gentlemen, I know you’re proud of your muscles, but keep the shirt ON!

I know what I just discussed above is regarding your personal online presence, but you might consider creating or improving your professional online presence. Some administrators might actually find this very impressive. Personal Learning Network’s (PLNs) are a great way stay abreast of the latest trends in education and learn from other educators around the world. Check out Alice Keeler's article on how to do just this:

Good luck students, I’m rooting for you and your future students are too!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (8) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Emy,
I like your generally positive approach to this, and to helping students see the value of their online presence. It has some nice, simple tips to monitor your online presence.

One suggestion I'd add to doing the Google Search is to do the search in Private/Ingognito Window. This will help make sure the search results aren't biased in any way by your previous, logged in search patterns. Just doing a search for my own name in a normal window vs. a private window brings up slightly different results.

Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.'s picture
Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.
Lecturer at Fresno State University's Kremen School of Education & Human Development

Hi Dan,

That is a great suggestion! I'll definitely add that to my list.
I appreciate the feedback.

Take care,

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

This is very interesting. Even with sixteen years under my belt (not looking for a job), I am still very conscious of what goes on the internet. I think there are different scenarios, levels of seriousness, defcons---- You can look at them like the pain intensity poster on the walls in hospitals (usually in the ER). There are some pics that are definitely a NO- Something illegal, naked, passed out, sexual in nature, etc... I really don't need to list the definite YES, but the pics that are in between, not sure, maybe? like....

-- Maybe you enjoy smoking cigars-perfectly legal, but??? You might even be in a club.
-- Same goes for wine or beer-- again, legal, but??? Drinking wine/beer in moderation is actually good for your health. Way better than soda.
--- You are in a Rock Band and play bars and clubs.
--- Pictures showing your tattoos or piercings in appropriate places?
--- Bathing Suit pictures?
--- Gun pictures? Not hunting, but you with a handgun shooting targets or something?

These are all "fence" pictures, not sure pictures-- All legal, but...

I think if you're looking for a job in a school, I probably wouldn't post them. Maybe the rock band pics would be ok.

My motto would be this: If you are about to post a picture and your head says, Maybe I shouldn't--- then don't. Go with your first gut feeling.


Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Great post, so useful to teachers and parents! As a student I've been warned of this by so many teachers that it was ingrained in me any social media is bad for your image (yes this was a long time ago before digital literacy). I currently tell my students that social media is becoming the new resume for future careers. Google searching one's name could tell us so much about their experience, background and work. Thanks for sharing our tips!

Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.'s picture
Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.
Lecturer at Fresno State University's Kremen School of Education & Human Development


You bring up some great points. There are so many scenarios for students to consider, that often they don't think before they post. But I like your motto. . .and I will definitely share this with my students. I had a boss that used to ask, "what would the headline say?" This would always make everyone stop and think because the last thing any educator wants is to be the topic of a news headline for something they shouldn't have done or said.
Thanks again for your feedback!

Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.'s picture
Emy Lopez Phillips, Ed.D.
Lecturer at Fresno State University's Kremen School of Education & Human Development


You are so right about social media becoming the new resume . . .sometimes it's a bit scary to see the people who are viewing your LinkedIN profile, just imagine those who are searching for you and you have not a clue. The recent events that occurred with the fraternity at Oklahoma University is a prime example of how poor choices that get posted to the Internet will have massive repercussions for the futures of these individuals.

Thanks for your feedback!

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Hi Emily! I just heard a great point on this topic by Guy Kawasaki (formerly of Google and Apple, now Canva). He said what we all have heard: future empoyers will be looking at all those embarrassing posts and pictures.... But then he said, "We've all done those things. And smart employers won't pass you up based on stupid teen/college antics." He said that we should focus on helping students build their positive online presence. Yes, it makes sense to caution them about those unprofessional pictures and posts, but even more important is that employers see what you HAVE done, so we need to teach students how to have an active, professional online presence, too. An interesting twist that hadn't occurred to me before.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

Great post and conversation!

I've had great results using the free service. Nothing helps more than generating lots of positive content for your digital footprint, but, helps you understand what's ranked highest when someone searches for you - and allegedly helps you manage the results. It's like SEO for people!

Check it out...


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