Checkup #5: Online Safety for the Whole Family
Your Online Reputation
Chances are you already have an online reputation, even if you do not know it.
On the Internet, you create an image of yourself through the information you share in blogs comments, tweets, snapshots, videos, and links. Others add their own opinions (good or bad), which contribute to your reputation. Anyone can find this information and use it to make judgments about you.
Find out what is on the Internet about you
Type your first and last name into several popular search engines. Search for images as well as text.
Be specific to increase your search effectiveness. Put quotation marks around your name. Specify the city where you live, your employer, or other keywords that apply only to you.
Avoid searching for national identity numbers or Social Security numbers. If you happen to see these (or other sensitive data like credit card numbers, grades, or health information) in search results, ask the website owner to remove the data immediately.
Search all variations of your name. If you have ever used a different name or nickname, if you use your middle name or initial, or if your name is frequently misspelled, check these as well. Include personal domain names (for example, yourname.com) in your search.
Check sites you frequent. Search online directories and sites that compile public records, genealogy sites, the websites of organizations to which you belong or donate time or money, and the like.
Search blogs and social networks
Review what others have posted about you in comments, pictures, or videos. Explore their blogs, personal pages on social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), or photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Instagram. (Parts of these sites are inaccessible to many search engines, so you must look separately.)
You can use a free service such as Skipease (http://www.skipease.com) to track down information from different sites and social networks. (If you have access to a TOR Browser you also should do a Deep Web search.)
Evaluate your online reputation
After you have gathered this information, think about the story it tells. Does it reflect the way you want others to perceive you? If not, what is missing? Is it accurate? If not, what should be deleted or corrected? Do you need more than one online profile—whether professional, personal, or for an area of interest, like a hobby or volunteer work? If so, is it okay to mix information from different profiles? Do you want your profiles to be public or more private? Your answers to these questions are important because information online is searchable, often permanent, and may be seen by anyone on the Internet.
Unlike data stored on paper, online information can be aggregated by Internet search engines and other tools, which makes it easier for others to put together their own idea of who you are. Websites may archive what you have posted and data they have collected from you. Friends (or ex-friends) may divulge it; malicious programmers and security lapses may expose it.
Protect your online reputation
Act online in a manner that reflects the reputation you want to earn—whether you are building on an existing reputation, discarding an old persona, or creating a new one.
Think before you share
Before you put anything online, think about what you are posting, who you are sharing it with, and how this will reflect on your reputation. Would you be comfortable if others saw it? Or saw it ten years from now? When you choose photos and videos, think about how others might perceive them. Talk with your friends about what you do and do not want shared. Ask them to remove anything that you do not want disclosed.
Treat others as you would like to be treated
Be civil in what you say and show on the web. Respect the reputation and privacy of others when you post anything about them (including pictures) on your own pages or on others’ pages or public sites. Remove anything that does not honor this.
Stay vigilant about what the Internet is saying about you
Sign up for personal alerts. Some search engines will automatically notify you of any new mention of your name or other personal information. From time to time, search for yourself to see what additional information has been catalogued in search engines.
Periodically reassess who has access to your pages. Friends change over time; it is okay to remove those who no longer belong.
How to Polish your reputation
Publish positive information about yourself
To be your online best, create what you want others to see. Link anything you publish to your name. Join a professional network such as LinkedIn or CareerBuilder. Put together a robust profile and make connections with colleagues there. Ask for recommendations from those who know your work well. Comment on professionally-oriented blogs, participate in online forums, and review books on subjects in which you have expertise.
Start a blog or register a website in your own name.
▪ Publicize yourself through clear writing, straightforward design, and high quality images.
▪ Write regularly (at least twice a month) on a subject about which you are knowledgeable.
▪ Invite visitors to make comments to create a conversation.
Consider separating professional and personal profiles
Use different email addresses, screen names, blogs, and websites for each profile.
Do not link your real name (or sensitive personal information such as your home and email addresses, phone numbers, or photos) with other profiles that you create. Add personal information to your professional profile judiciously and only as it reflects well on that image. Avoid cross references to personal sites. Some social networks let you build separate friends lists—for family, your sports team, work, and so on—so that you can manage what you share within one profile. Look for Settings or Options to help you manage who can see your profile or photos, how people can search for you, who can make comments, and how to block unwanted access by others.
Restore your online reputation
If you find information about yourself that does not fit the reputation you want, act quickly. The longer it stays public, the greater the chance that it will be spread or archived.
In a respectful way, ask the person who posted it to remove it or correct an error. If it is a correction, ask him or her to include a notice (CORRECTION or UPDATED) right next to the original (incorrect) material.
If the person does not respond or refuses to help, ask the website administrator to remove the digital damage.
If you feel a public correction is necessary, present your case simply and politely without attacking the person.
Cyber Defense Basics for Children
If you’re a parent, you can help your kids use the Internet safely by teaching some basic rules. Here are some basic lessons that parents can help their kids learn.
Encourage kids to keep passwords secret
Kids create online user names and passwords for school, game websites, social networking, posting photos, shopping, and more. According to a study by Teen Angels of Wired Safety.org, 75 percent of 8- to 9-year olds shared passwords with someone else, and 66 percent of girls in grades 7 to 12 said they shared their password with someone else.
The first rule of Internet safety is: keep passwords secret. Encourage kids to treat their passwords with as much care as the information that they protect.
Here are some rules that kids should know and follow.
▪ Don’t reveal passwords to others. Keep your passwords hidden, even from friends.
▪ Protect recorded passwords. Be careful where you store passwords that you record or write down. Don’t store passwords in your backpack or wallet. Don’t leave records of your passwords anywhere that you would not leave the information that the passwords protect. Don’t store your passwords on a file in your computer. Criminals look there first.
▪ Never provide your password over email or in response to an email request. Any email message that requests your password or requests that you to go to a website to verify your password could be a kind of fraud called a phishing scam. This includes requests from trusted sites that you might visit all the time. Fraudsters often create fake email messages with logos and language from real sites.
▪ Do not type passwords on computers that you do not control. Don’t use public computers in your school, library, Internet cafes, or computer labs for anything other than anonymous Internet browsing. Don’t use these computers for any account that requires a user name and password. Criminals can purchase keystroke logging devices for very little money and they take only a few moments to install. With these devices malicious users can gather information typed on a computer from across the Internet.
Help your kids use social networking safely
Your kids may use social networking sites designed for children such as Webkinz or Club Penguin, or sites designed for adults such as YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and others. Kids use social networks to connect with others who might live halfway around the world and with their peers whom they see every day at school.
Kids should understand that many of these social networking sites can be viewed by anyone with access to the Internet. As a result, some of the information they post can make them vulnerable to phishing scams, online bullying, and Internet predators. Here are several ways to help kids use social networking sites safely.
▪ Communicate with kids about their experiences. Encourage your children to tell you if something they encounter on the Internet makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable, or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids it is OK to bring it to your attention. Let them know you will work with them to help resolve the situation positively.
▪ Establish Internet rules. As soon as your children use the Internet on their own, establish rules for Internet use. These rules should define whether your children can use social networking sites and how they can use them.
▪ Ensure your kids follow age limits. The recommended age to sign up for social websites is usually 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age, do not let them use the sites. You cannot rely on the services themselves to keep your underage child from signing up.
▪ Teach your children never meet anyone in person that they’ve communicated with online only. Kids are in real danger when they meet strangers in person whom they’ve communicated with online only. It might not be enough to simply tell your child not to talk to strangers, because your child might not consider someone they’ve “met” online to be a stranger.
▪ Encourage your children to communicate with people they already know. You can help protect your children by encouraging them to use these sites to communicate with friends, but not with people they’ve never met in person.
▪ Ensure your kids don’t use full names. Teach your child to use only a first name or nickname, but not a nickname that would attract inappropriate attention. Also, do not allow your children to post the full names of their friends.
▪ Be wary of identifiable information in your child’s profile. Many social websites allow kids to join public groups that include everyone who goes to a certain school.
Be careful when your children reveal information that can identify them, such as a school mascot, a workplace, or the name of the town they live in. Too much information can make your children vulnerable to online bullying, Internet predators, Internet fraud, or identity theft.
▪ Consider using a site that is not very public. Some websites allow you to password-protect your site or use other methods to help limit viewers to only people your child knows.
▪ Be smart about details in photographs. Explain to your children that photographs can reveal a lot of personal information. Encourage your children not to post photographs of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, license plates on their cars, or their school name on clothing.
▪ Warn your child about expressing emotions to strangers. You’ve probably already encouraged your kids not to communicate with strangers directly online. However, kids use social websites to write journals and poems that often express strong emotions.
Explain to your children that anyone with access to the Internet can read their words and predators often search out emotionally vulnerable kids.
▪ Removal of your child’s page. If your children refuse to follow the rules you’ve set to help protect their safety and you’ve attempted to help them change their behavior, you can contact the social website your child uses and ask them to remove the page. You may also want to investigate Internet-filtering tools as a complement to, not a replacement for, parental supervision.
Beware of online fraud
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 31 percent of reported victims of identity theft are young people. Teenagers make attractive targets because they have good credit ratings and little debt, and they tend to be less savvy than adults about how to keep personal information secure. Some things that your children should know in order to be smart consumers and avoid online fraud
▪ Never share personal information. Don’t give out personal information, such as your full name or hometown, in an instant message (IM) or a chat room unless you are certain of the identity of the person with whom you are chatting.
▪ Log off in public. If you use computers in a library or Internet cafe, log off completely before you leave. You don’t know what software is installed on these computers or what it does and it might have keystroke tracking software installed.
▪ Use only secure sites. If your kids shop on the web, they should be sure the URL of any site where they enter financial information begins with https:// and features a yellow lock icon in the bottom right corner or a green address bar. They can click the icon or address bar to check the security certificate for the site.
Where the danger lies –
Coined from the independent film “Catfish,” which follows a filmmaker who discovers the truth about the online relationship he has been conducting with a woman whom he has never met, “catfishing” occurs when a user creates a false or highly-exaggerated social media profile for the purposes of conducting a relationship online. Some profiles are created out of boredom or loneliness, while others are created to exact revenge or cause embarrassment to the targeted party.
Common signs that you are being catfished can include:
• Inability to contact the other party “in person” – their cell phone is broken or has been stolen, they will not use Skype or SnapChat, they will not or cannot meet you in public despite the seriousness of your relationship.
• Their photographs appear to be highly edited, stylized, or otherwise unrealistic. You can search Google by image file in order to determine whether the photos you’ve received are legitimate.
• Details of their personal life consistently changing, or they have a life story that seems unbelievable or outlandish. If the relationship becomes too intense, they may develop a life-threatening illness, or face another threat to their “life” that could terminate the relationship. Your best resource here is your instinct for the truth, and to keep track of variations in their stories.
Actions in the digital world can have far-reaching consequences in real life. Inappropriate posts on social media can have severe repercussions on a student’s academic career, and students can lose jobs, internships and even interviews because of the information potential employers are finding out about students on their social networking accounts.
While administrators are not monitoring social networking sites, if information or pictures on a student’s account that violate policy are brought to their attention or are reported to them, they will follow up and investigate further.
Compromising and inappropriate pictures, statements or other information on student social networking accounts can hurt students’ chances to gain (or even be considered for) employment. Employers take the images that students are portraying on social networking sites very seriously as a reflection of personal character.
High school and college athletes may find that their social media profiles fall under additional scrutiny. Many universities and colleges will monitor the social media profiles of recruits and current athletes to determine that athlete’s character and ability to represent the university, and some forms of social media contact may constitute a violation of NCAA regulations. Speak with your coach or an Athletics Department staff member should you have questions regarding your social media actions.
A recent survey confirms this: A whopping 70 percent of U.S. business managers say they decided not to hire a job candidate based upon something found out about her online. So it’s crucial to keep your virtual self, well, virtuous. Here’s how.
Clean up your pages
Social-media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, appear high in search results, so opt for the highest privacy settings on these networks. Also, remove complaints about your job or boss, any confidential work information, and photos of yourself acting in a way that could be construed as inappropriate. Do the same for any photo-sharing services you use. If an unflattering photo appears on someone else’s page, ask her to remove it. (Alas, she doesn’t have to comply.) If it’s pornographic, it’s a good idea to alert the authorities. Got an offer? Great. But don’t announce it on Facebook until you clear it with your employer-to-be. People have been fired after posting online about their employment without the sanction of the new boss, experts say. Stick with spreading your good fortune in person.