Did you know that once your kids graduate high school or college, they're going to need to find a job? It's true! Did you also know that employers can be just as tech-savvy as your kids (or more so)?
Take this picture. You can see some girls having a "good time" while possibly illegally drinking underage. Let's say one of these girls is your daughter (we'll call her Suzie). Not thinking that it would come back to bite her, she posted this picture and caption on Myspace, Facebook, or her personal blog site. Fast forward a few years and Mr. Employer has Suzie's resume sitting on his desk. Wanting more than paper information, Mr. Employer does a quick web search and brings up Suzie's page with years worth of blog entries and pictures. Will he like what he sees?
It gets worse. Besides biting your kid in the butt, this can come back to bite you as well. Let's say she posts the following in her blog:
Bummer! My parents are fighting again!
Posted: October, 10, 2004
This is SO LAME! I can't believe them!! Why do they always have to yell at each other? Just because my Mom smoked Dad's last joint… ugh!
Damn, Timmy is crying. He's just a baby for crying out loud! Of course he's going to cry when Mom and Dad are screaming at each other late at night. I better go get him so they don't take it out on him again.
Whether this post is based in truth or your kid is just "playing around", this kind of information could bring in law enforcement, child services, and who knows what other kinds of trouble. For example, what about the risk of drawing the attention of online predators?
The fears are well publicized based on a few exceptional cases: Someone finds your child through the Internet and does something bad to them. But according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, the vast majority of real-life encounters of "Internet Friends" do not end in violence.. Stories of kids getting involved with older strangers usually involve teens (not younger kids) who voluntarily met them knowing their intentions. But it's hardly comforting to know that your 13 year old kid is in a "consensual" relationship with a 28 year old.
Whether consensual or not, the action is generally initiated by the predator and not your kid. Predators are going to "shop" online for information on likely targets and pick the ones that both match what they're looking for and then narrow it to the targets that are either especially interesting or especially vulnerable.
What to do about it
First teach them about Internet Safety including how to set up and use their social network profiles. But also make sure to Monitor their Internet and web service usage so that you can see problems before it's too late.
If you've only just discovered bad content online, it's not too late to do something about it. First, delete the data from any website under your control. As for ones that aren't in your control, check out these resources and the ones they point to as well:
- How to check your online profile before you get a job – I could have put together tips for finding and handling your online profile, but they already did it so check out their article. One thing they didn't mention is a DMCA takedown notice. You can only use this for copyrighted works and not just stuff you find embarrassing. If you try it anyway, you're likely to anger the recipient and could find yourself the victim of the Streisand Effect.
- How to create a positive online profile – This gives you advice on how to improve your online profile on purpose.
Remember that it's much, much harder to remove data once it's been posted (''you can't un-ring a bell'' as they say). Learn to be careful BEFORE you post and teach your kids the same.