By now you must know that just about everything you post on the web is accessible to practically anyone.  That includes your parents, teachers, “frenemies,” college admissions officials, and even your future employers. Once you post a picture, it goes out into the vast cyberspace universe where it can be picked up by Google, Yahoo, Bing! and a constantly growing number of search engines. Web crawlers pick up every picture and everyone with the same name as you.

Go ahead — Google your name and see what comes up! If you’ve been careless, you might find a picture or two you wish weren’t there for all to see. Try as you might, these are very difficult to completely erase from the net’s incredibly sticky grasp.

Now imagine Mrs. Welday is a shop owner in your town looking for a mature, reliable individual to take a position of responsibility within her company. She has invested a vast amount of time and energy  building her business and she must be able to trust that a new hire will take his or her job seriously. You’ve given her a clean resume that states all the requirements, including a high school diploma. Your interview goes well and Mrs. Welday thinks you might be the one. She Googles your name and up pops your picture taken two years ago at a party. Your arms are draped around your BFFS, you’re drinking from a brown bottle and your eyes are tiny slits. Do you think Mrs. Welday is going to hire you, or someone else?

Let’s consider college admissions offices. Many universities are competitive, and your Google results just may shut you out of your choice of higher education. Your high school teachers may have told you the “Golden Rule of the Internet” — students should never post anything they wouldn’t want their parents to see. However, recent polls have shown that most teens do not realize the wide-reaching consequences of questionable posts. And seventy-five per cent of students accept “friend” requests from people they have never met. What if some of your Facebook “friends” are using your images? Anyone can get a screen shot of your images and post them anywhere online. You no longer have control over your name and picture. The time to have control is before you post anything.

Perhaps you were once young and irresponsible, but now you’re mature and responsible. Don’t let the person you used to be ruin the reputation of the person that you are. Remember, character is what kind of person you know you are, but reputation is what others believe about you. Negative impressions can be hard to overcome, with all the job competition there is today. Protect your reputation — and your future — by controlling your personal information. That way, when you’re famous, it will be for all the right reasons!