Protect Your Online Reputation

Protect Your Online Reputation

Have you Googled yourself lately? It’s entirely possible you’re not doing it often enough, as a 2010 stat showed that less than 50% of folks did regularly. But chances are you’ve conducted an online search on someone else. Whether it’s a prospective employee, someone you just met or a potential business partner, looking up information on the Internet is one of the first steps many people take when trying to learn more about others.

It’s imperative you stay on top of your digital image and learn how to protect your online reputation. According to a recent infographic from KBSD Digital Marketing, 78% of recruiters check search engines on potential employees, and half of recruiters and HR professionals refer to personal websites when deciding whether or not to hire you. They’re looking at photos, trying to find unflattering or incriminating information.

So while it’s simple to suggest not to ever put any content out there that may offend others, the reality is that many of use enjoy and utilize social networks because people are sharing personal information about their thoughts and happenings.   Here are some basic tips to help you control your image while still maintaining a positive online presence, thereby ultimately protecting your online reputation:

Always Consider Your Online Footprint: Consider that everything you post or any picture that appears of you online is available for the broad public. There are many who refuse to ever have a photo taken of them holding an alcoholic drink for example. Although you can lock down Facebook privacy settings, if you’re on Twitter, be aware that anything you tweet is easily searchable, so be leery of taking any potentially controversially viewpoints or stands.

Focus on Positive Communications: Take steps to create your own brand by highlighting activities and thought leadership in areas you want to be associated with.  If you want people to see you as someone who appreciates the arts, ask questions about or post information from art gallery openings or symphony concerts. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can change others’ perceptions of you by focusing your observations and sharing on specific areas of interest.

Control Your Information: Take advantage of privacy settings wherever you can. Don’t trust Facebook, Google or any other social network or photo sharing service to have default settings exactly how you want them. If you will be posting information or sharing photos that you would never want the public at large or future employers to see, make sure to restrict access to your accounts and content.

Know What’s Out There: Google yourself, check what’s going on.  Pretend you are someone who knows nothing about you and see what kind of info it leads to. See what’s on the first few pages of search results, make sure to see what images are out there associated with a search for your name. And if you’re an individual or a small business who finds information online that you’d rather wasn’t there, consider using one of these services to help manage your online reputation:

Reputation.com offer free scans to help you find information online, with an option to subscribe for $100 a year to help them keep your reputation clean. For those that do have information they want to remove, prices to get that info removed or changed from Reputation.com will enter the thousands of dollars range, with it being even more expensive if you have a common name.

BrandYourself helps make entries you want to highlight more visible in search results than those you may want removed. As an example, the company shows how you can boost visibility for your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles (with content you control) to appear before potentially negative information, such as divorce settlement records. Brand Yourself attempts to make the process much simpler and user-based than Reputation.com, offering “do-it-yourself” tips and free profiling and alerts. The free version of the platform will help optimize up to three links and track the first page of Google search results for your name. For $10 per month, you can boost to unlimited links and track the first 10 pages of results.

Integrity Defenders helps individuals or businesses remove negative comments or content from the first page of search results of the most popular search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo1 for a little more than $600, and even offers to push the content off the first and second pages for twice that price.

Technology and Kids: When to Introduce High-Tech

Technology and Kids: When to Introduce High-Tech

Family Tech

Technology for parents & kids: Hints, tips, online safety strategies & more.

The most recent report on media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds from the Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the most detailed looks at kids use of technology, shows that children are constantly using some form of device to consume media, often doing many at the same time. Whether it’s for TV watching, listening to music or playing games, tech is ingrained into the youngest generation’s  behavior – hence the reason we refer to them as Generation Tech. But although it seems obvious to many parents that different content is appropriate for different ages when they think about movies or music, many parents struggle with figuring when and how to introduce their kids to various technologies. So let’s take a high-level look at both the best new technology and kids’ high-tech habits, and when and how you can think about introducing screens into their lives.

As a holiday 2011 report revealed,  the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch were kids aged 6-12’s most-wanted gifts, just narrowly outranking computers and handheld gaming systems like the Nintendo 3DS. With more tots aged 2-5 able to play video games or downloadable apps than ride a bike or tie their shoelaces, knowing when to start your kids on different types of technology is one of the most important questions today’s digital parent must ask. Essentially, experts say, kids climb a continuum of media consumption.  It usually starts with gaming on a smartphone, which graduates to video game consoles. This leads to communicating with others, which eventually lead to iPods and then cell phones. Suddenly the whole world is at kids’ fingertips with the ability to connect to who and what they want when they want to.

That said, it’s not always easy to tell when it’s appropriate to bring technology into kids’ world. However, the following guidelines may help:

Technology and Kids: Preschoolers

While you may let your toddler fiddle with your smartphone to give yourself a bit of peace of quiet either in public or at home, there are options in terms of technology designed specifically for the pre-K set. From the V-Tech InnoTab to LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer and Oregon Scientific’s MEEP (all tablet PCs designed for tots), kid-friendly tech options start young and will often be among the first tech devices that children call their own.

While these devices have garnered many parenting and educational awards, be aware that, like video game consoles, each of these devices require you buy a specific type of cartridge, disc or app that’s designed only for the system to be able to play. And, of course, that although many will be billed as “educational” in nature, mileage may vary by system, app or cartridge. This is worth noting, as when looking for games and activities for young preschoolers to play on the computer, tablet or smart phone, we always advise looking for options that are easy-to-play and have some educational value. The best technology encourages interests in real-world subjects, and sparks interests in low-tech and outdoor complements to high-tech activity.

Remember: It’s one thing to introduce kids to tech – another entirely to encourage positive computing habits, and teach the importance of being able to pull away from the screen.

Early Elementary

As kids enter elementary school, many families will consider introducing a video game console to their household. For the past half dozen years, the Nintendo Wii has been a solid starter console, but the company’s upcoming Wii U, and popular motion controlled gaming accessories the PlayStation Move (for Sony’s PlayStation 3) and Microsoft’s Kinect (a 3D camera which makes your body the controller for Xbox 360) are all now solid choices.  No matter what a family chooses, we recommend disabling any of the online features for kids who are under 7.

Access to digital music players and toys with limited tech features (e.g. voice activated diaries or handheld educational systems) may also be introduced at this point in some households. Be careful what content you let your children consume (be sure to monitor for age appropriateness), and the manner in which they consume it. Setting time limits, off-hours and household rules governing the use of all devices is important as well, as is observing how kids interact with these devices, with whom, and to what extent.

Tweens

Before many kids make the leap to having their own phone, many have their own MP3 player or other device that can be connected to the Internet and used for texting, e-mails and music downloads, such as an iPod.  The important thing to remember here is that for devices which offer connections to the Internet, and you must stay aware of what your kids are doing, who they’re doing it with, and the way in which they choose to participate and interact in these activities.

Likewise, in terms of children who are gaming fans, by the time they enter third grade, kids will want to go online via services such as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. Both services offer the ability to link your child’s account to an adult’s so you can manage what your children can and can’t do, as well as who they interact with. Kids may also have access to portable video game consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita at this point – all of which allow online access, the passing of virtual notes, socialization, etc.

So remember: No matter what devices they are using, kids in this age bracket are going to embrace instant messaging and chat if they can, as well as features which allow them to interact or play with other children, whether it’s via your WiFi connection or through the mobile wireless connection built into their device.  Make sure they’re always only talking to people they know, and enforce your device dark times and rules that you’ve had set and have followed as they’ve grown up.

Teens

Middle schoolers who play video games are now most likely drawn to games which don’t focus on educational aspects, but rather games that are on the cutting edge of graphics, and allow them to play against their friends on services like Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.  The ESRB even has a T for Teen rating for games that are a bit more sophisticated and deal with more serious themes, but still falls short of games that are M for Mature, which is reserved for kids 17 and up.  Talk to your kids about what games it’s okay for them to play, both at home and at their friends’ house.

Similarly, on the general consumer technology front, studies show that most kids receive their first mobile handset (read: feature phone) or smartphone between ages 12-13 (although we keep hearing stories of this age being pushed younger and younger).  What parents shouldn’t do, experts say, is buy kids a full-fledged smart phone at this point. Instead, buy them a basic cell phone with strong parental controls built-in, and set specific limits about its usage. Good options for managing consumption are MobileProtector, Firefly or Kajeet, but many kids will jump straight to an Android device or iPhone – for more tips on managing this type of tech, we recommend seeing additional guides here on-site, or downloading our free Modern Parent’s Guide high-tech parenting books.

Kids and Social Networks: What Children Need to Know

Kids and Social Networks: What Children Need to Know

In October 2010 TRUSTe announced the results of a nationwide survey of both parents and their teens investigating their privacy habits and preferences on social networks. What they found was that, for the most part, “the kids are alright,” noting a majority of teens use privacy controls on social networks and that most parents actively monitor their teen’s privacy.  But there’s still room for improvement, with more than 2/3rds of teens admitting they’d accepted a Facebook friend request from someone they didn’t know, and nearly 1 in 10 teens admitting to accepting all friend requests they receive, pointing to the need for more education around kids and social networks.

Unfortunately, examples of what NOT to do on social networks seem all too common. Whether it’s posting inappropriate videos, an abundance of pictures with alcohol prominently involved, or generally distasteful updates, employers and schools are keeping an eye on what the employees and students are doing, and disciplining those who act inappropriately. And there are also some potentially grave and dangerous consequences to misuse and abuse of social networks.  Consider the case of Tyler Clementi, a homosexual teen who committed suicide after his roommate posted videos of his sexual encounters on Twitter.

But don’t be scared by these instances.  Social networks are now an important part of your child’s development.  A 2011 clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics entitled “The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families” finds that a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while using social networks.  The report lists a number of benefits for kids from being connected, such as better engagement with friends, family and community; enhanced learning opportunities via collaboration; connections with like-minded teens; and enhancement of creativity. Tellingly, the study also found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day. 

Naturally, kids need to be empowered to realize that they can shape their own image on these social networks, and use these services in positive ways.

Once they’re using social networks, the platform can serve as an amplifier for the information your kids decide to share or interact with.  Facebook spokesperson Marian Heath says that she hears from people all the time that Facebook is a place where there kids can get in trouble.  But she urges parents and teens to turn that around, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

“You can build your own image,” Heath says.  “Post the good things you’re doing and share your interests.  Have conversations online so folks can find out what’s interesting to you.  Ask friends about books you’re reading, plays you’re interested in.”  Instead of focusing on the negative or gossipy aspects, use the service to shape your online image how you want to.

Tell your teens they don’t need to be afraid to connect with you.  Remind them that you don’t want to interfere with or embarrass them, you just want to make sure they’re making good choices, just like in real life.  And even though kids may want to “hide” things you’re posting from parents, the reality is that in today’s world once information is made available, it’s out there forever.  So forcing kids to have a confirming thought of “do I want my mom to see this?” prior to anything they post actually isn’t a bad thing.

Although no one knows exactly what the future holds, chances are your kids will be applying to colleges after high school, and soon after that entering the work force.  In the future, those making life-changing decisions about your child’s life are sure to examine their social media profiles in addition to any other information they’ve made public.  So remind kids that the things they post now can and likely will be used against them, even if it’s five or ten years down the line.