I suggest googling your name, your significant other's name and your kid's names no less than once every six months. You would be surprised at what you find. I regularly google myself, probably more often than most people. My online reputation is important in the business I am in and quite frankly for most businesses.
It may sound narcissistic when actually it is the first step in fraud prevention but can also help in child safety. Upon my last search, I found out that someone had created a Twitter account with my name, plus one extra letter, and my picture. Their posts were just a little bizarre and had no rhyme or reason. However, the accounts they were following included lots of porn and other deviant behaviors. As a child and victim advocate, you can imagine how bad that would look if someone believed it was me following all of those inappropriate accounts. I was mortified!
I filed an imposter complaint with Twitter immediately and Twitter suspended the account but only after requiring me to do a lot of work to prove it. However, we all know nothing is ever really completely deleted from the internet. If I ever run for President, I’m sure the opposing candidate would dredge up that fake account and run it through the tabloids.
All of this pales in comparison to what you may find when googling your child’s name. I found that my kids, during their freshman year in high school, were required by their tech teacher to do a presentation about themselves via Prezi. Prezi is an online presentation software that has a free version and paid version. The problem with the free version is that it has public access. Each student was instructed to give very personal information about themselves that included birthdate, where they live, who they live with, what they like to do for fun, pictures of themselves and basically all of the information that pedophiles and sex traffickers use to build trust and gain access to your kids.
I was horrified and had my daughter immediately remove it from the site. Unfortunately, although she deleted the presentation from her Prezi account, it is still showing up in a Google Search. I have contacted her school and their tech guy can’t figure out how to have it completely removed off the internet.
In addition to that assignment, our kids were also required to do an assignment on one of their parents that included the same personal information and photos. I am surprised that a Tech Teacher, of all teachers, would be giving out assignments like this. Tech teachers should be educated on internet safety and know the risks involved. I have been in contact with our kids’ school and have demanded that they modify this assignment.
I believe in doing random checks of our kids’ cell phones, laptops, and online accounts. Any cyber security professional will tell you that parents should always have their kids’ passwords and check accounts often. As much as we teach our kids about internet safety, I am absolutely shocked to find them still occasionally making bad judgement calls.
As parents, we have to be vigilant in protecting our kids. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet so they can’t bear the burden of the adult responsibility of safety. We cannot assume that the people who are in charge of kids for a good portion of their day are doing it for us. We have to remember that we are working with humans, mistakes happen and people have varying degrees of what they consider to be appropriate.