Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parents Learn More about Facebook

Source: Toronto Sun

More like Casebook

Social networking sites can sometimes make or break a case in court
By VIVIAN SONG, NATIONAL BUREAU


Be careful what you post on Facebook or MySpace, because anything you say or upload can and will be used against you in a court of law.

Last year, for example, an Ottawa court heard that a civil servant had started a clandestine affair with an old friend she reconnected with through Facebook during a messy custody battle involving three kids.

In a Vancouver courtroom last month, defendants in a personal injury case produced photos from the plaintiff's Facebook profile showing that while Myla Bagasbas was seeking $40,000 in damages for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment after a car accident, she was still able to kayak, hike and bike post-accident.

"Facebook will be seen as a gold mine for evidence in court cases," said Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in ethics, law and technology at the University of Ottawa.

But it will also challenge the courts to further define the notion of personal privacy. In a precedent-setting case this year, a Toronto judge ordered that a man suing for physical injury in a car accident be cross-examined on the contents of his private Facebook profile. Justice David Brown of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice overturned a previous court decision that called the defendant's request to look for incriminating evidence a "fishing expedition."

The very nature of Facebook is to share personal information with others, Brown wrote, and is likely to contain relevant information about how the plaintiff, John Leduc, had led his life since the accident. But if Leduc's profile is private with restricted access, is that considered an invasion of privacy?

"The courts sometimes don't get it," Kerr said. "The tendency in judicial opinion and popular thinking is that once something is out in the public, there's no such thing as privacy anymore. But that can't be right because we all have curtains."

For Facebook users, those curtains are our privacy settings. If our home is our castle, Facebook should also be considered a walled domain, Kerr said.

For example, while a member may post pictures from a beer bash the night before, that doesn't mean they would take the same pictures to show off to their boss the next day, Kerr explained.

Likewise, in Murphy versus Perger, a judge ordered that the plaintiff, who was suing for claims of personal injury and loss of enjoyment of life after a car accident, produce copies of her Facebook pages showing photos of her engaging in social activities. In her judgment, Ontario Superior Court Justice Helen Rady wrote "The plaintiff could not have a serious expectation of privacy given that 366 people have been granted access to the private site."

But having 366 Facebook friends doesn't entitle the rest of the world to view personal information meant only for certain eyes, said Avner Levin, director of the Privacy Institute at Toronto's Ryerson University.

"It's not how many people you share it with, it's who you choose to share the information with," Levin said. "The judge is missing the point. What's important is not how many people are your friends, but who you choose to know you."

While we're able to compartmentalize and separate people in our lives offline by assigning titles to different spheres -- co-workers, neighbours, family -- the online world fails to recognize those distinctions, he added.

It's a habit that spills over in the job hunt as well. Employers admit they rely heavily on information they glean about a candidate from Google searches and networking profile pages. But it's an unfair screening process, Levin said, and attaches more value to people's online identities -- and sometimes third-party information -- than the candidate they meet in real life.

"We need to suppress that tendency to go on Google and look people up. There's already a process of hiring that works for them and has been working for years," Levin said.

While we're more likely to trust a direct source and treat gossip with skepticism in the offline world, the same can't be said of online information.

Pruning online identities and putting a person's best cyber-foot forward are services offered by companies such as DefendMyName, a personal PR service which posts positive information about a client and pushes down negative links in Google. ReputationDefender also destroys libelous, private or outdated content.

"A resume is no longer what you send to your employer," said ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik. "More people look at Google as a resume."

But instead of authenticating information found online, people are trusting secondary material and treating Google like God.

"What happens is in a court of law, you have to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt. On the Internet though, many decisions are based on lower standards," Fertik said.

But is sanitizing a person's online reputation of unflattering content an infringement of freedom of speech and freedom of expression?

"Only if you believe Google is the best and most accurate source of information," Fertik said. "But I don't think Google is God. I believe Google is a machine."

vivian.song@sunmedia.ca

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sue Scheff: Cyberbully and Anonymous Tip Lines


A few months ago I was introduced to this fantastic website for parents of teens and tweens. I recently visited there again, and was again, amazed at the up-to-date articles including deciding on your teen’s allowance, the high costs of having your teen involved in sports, and so much more. I noticed today a educational article on the inside scoop of anonymous tip lines for cyberbullying. Read more and remember, visit this website - it is not only informational, it is bright and cheery!





I’ve been working with a local group to educate and develop policy around the issue of cyber-bullying. If you’ve been a reader you’ll know that a friend of mine’s child was a victim of cyber-bullying recently. I discovered some products (this is but one) that I am going to recommend the schools take into consideration. It is computer program that provides an anonymous communication link between the students and the administration. I think we all know that kids are the best resource for knowing what’s going on inside our schools.


Here is a description of the program from their website (Disclaimer: I have not received any product information or free product from this company - I found it via research):


” Experts say in four out of five school shootings, the attackers boasted about their plans to other students beforehand. So how can school officials and law enforcement bridge the communication chasm between students and faculty? Is investing in security cameras and infrastructure improvements the right approach? AnComm believes that if we are to reduce the likelihood of violence in schools, we must put communication at the core of our school safety plan.


Administrators need to give students a way to reach out to counselors and faculty without fear of retribution or embarrassment to seek help or notify those who can help that there are problems inside your school that require attention. ‘Talk About It®’ provides an affordable, easy-to-implement option to immediately breaking the code of silence and getting students to ‘Talk About It®.’


Monday, April 27, 2009

Sueu Scheff: Parenting, Teens and Cyberbullying

Source: TeensHealth

Bullies and mean girls have been around forever, but technology has given them a whole new platform for their actions. As adults, we're becoming more aware that the "sticks and stones" adage no longer holds true; virtual name-calling can have real-world effects on the well being of kids and teens.

It's not always easy to know how and when to step in as a parent. For starters, our kids tend to use technology differently than we do. Many spend a lot of time on social networking sites, send text messages and instant messages (IMs) by the hundreds, and are likely to roll their eyes at the mention of email — that's "so old-school" to them. Their knowledge and habits can be intimidating, but they still need us as parents.

Fortunately, our growing awareness of cyberbullying has helped us learn a lot more about how to prevent it. Here are some suggestions on what to do if online bullying has become part of your child's life.

What Is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.

Sometimes cyberbullying can be clear-cut. For example, leaving overtly cruel cell phone text messages or mean notes posted to Web sites. Other acts are less obvious, such as impersonating a victim online or posting personal information or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another child.

Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender's tone — one teen's joke or sense of humor could be another's devastating insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, text messages, and online posts is rarely accidental.

A 2006 poll from the national organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids found that 1 in 3 teens and 1 in 6 preteens have been the victims of cyberbullying. As more and more youths have access to computers and cell phones, the incidence of cyberbullying is likely to rise.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sue Scheff: Twitter and Identity Theft?


O-kay, I don’t get the Twitter craze, however it is obvious I am the one missing out as I hear about it from many media sources etc. Learn more about how to keep safe on this “Twitter” - as with many social networks, approach with caution - but you can still have fun.



In case you didn’t already know, Twitter is the latest “it” fad in the world of social media. From Demi Moore’s suicide prevention tweeting to the news of a potential Google-Twitter merger, it seems that not one week goes by without a major news story about the popular microblogging service.


Unfortunately, it isn’t all wine and roses at Twitter. Since the service emerged in 2006, one of the consistent complaints against it has been the ease with which individuals can set up phony accounts in someone else’s name. With such a large volume of users, it is impossible for Twitter to monitor each individual sign-up for validity. This means that someone could send out hundreds of tweets under your name, before you caught on. That’s what happened to Televangelist Robert H. Schuller, whose Twitter problem was discussed in a recent article at MSNBC.com.


From the article:


Televangelist Robert H. Schuller has reached millions worldwide with his weekly “Hour of Power” TV broadcasts, but when it comes to the Internet, he had a high-tech headache: an online impostor.


When Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral megachurch, recently tried to set up an account on the micro-blogging Web site Twitter.com, he discovered another user masquerading as himself.
[SNIP]
Schuller’s impersonator — who remains unidentified — seemed to know a lot about that history and the preacher’s life, said Nason, the spokesman. The impostor said in his early tweets that he was Schuller’s assistant, but then went on to say he was Schuller himself and even talked about the preacher’s wife, Nason said.


“The content seemed fairly normal for someone like Dr. Schuller to say,” Fayer said. “But in the future you don’t know how they’re going to use that. What if they start asking people to send money and say, ‘Send money to X,Y,Z’?”


The rest of the article details several other prominent phony Twitter accounts including a fake Stephen Colbert and a fake Tina Fey.


While it may not seem like a big deal to some, it is important to note that Reverend Schuller is a very prominent individual with a PR staff dedicated to catching issues like this. For the average person, it could be months before a Twitter fraud is exposed. That is why it is more important than ever for individuals to take full control of their image online and be proactive in Online Reputation Management.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sue Scheff: Digital Kids and Parenting


Vanessa Van Petten is always keeping parents up to date through her valuable website called OnTeensToday. I love getting her latest articles, they always educate us as to what our kids may be going through in today’s generation of life as they live it.


Here is this week’s blast of news for you - and the topic is one that every parent needs to take the time to learn about. Digital Kids!


5 Code Cracking Perspectives on Digital Kids


I post a lot about kids online and Growing Up Online Series. Recently, after going on my media tour with Symantec on their new Parental Control Software, my mind was opened to a bunch of new issues and their solutions…please read on:


1) Curiosity vs. Obsession


Many parents have found their kids on a porn website and pro-anorexia site and has freaked out. Before breaking out the handcuffs and throwing the computer out the window, I think there needs to be a distinction between what is simple adolescent curiosity and what is a real problem. I am just going to say it, I do not think a teenager checking out a porn site once or twice is that big of a deal. We have all wondered…there becomes an issue when it becomes a habit. No matter if it is once or 100 times, either way parents should talk to their kids about what they have seen. Your kid might be more disturbed by what they saw than you know, and you need to be there for them.



2) Intention


One of the members of the Norton Online Family Advisory Council made a wonderful point about the intention of what your kids are searching for or how they got to a bad site. Often times children and kids will often mistype or click accidentally on a website that happens to take them to somewhere inappropriate. Then, if the parent checks the web history or has a spyware product (Review of Parental Control Software), they freak out and punish the child. I ask that you try to find out what your child’s intention was going to that site or carrying out their behavior online. This holds true for Cyberbullying, posting on social networks and cursing on IM chats…why, this can greatly affect the punishment, consequence or outcome.


3) Forensic Parents


Marian Merritt, of Symantec, told a great story about when she saw that her daughter had accidentally visited a voyeur porn site. Like a detective, she used her the Norton parental control software to work backwards to figure out what had happened before freaking out. Her daughter, 14, had searched “Bride Wars” into Google. This had taken her to Youtube. There she watched a number of videos and trailers for the movie. Then, in one of the comments, someone had posted a link that said “if you like these clips, check out this one!” This link took her to a porn site. After this, Marian went to talk to her and her daughter was relieved (but never would have come to her on her own) and was upset about what she saw. She actually asked Marian to turn on the blockers for those sites in the future. Often times, kids do not want to go on those forbidden sites as much as you do not want them to.


4) Facebook is the new Playground


I am often asked by freaked out parents if they could just ‘unplug’ the internet and not allow their kids online to avoid all the dangers. This is not realistic. 20 years ago, parents could prevent their children from going on the playground to avoid a bully, but this would have taught their kids resilience, or how to handle it if and when they were bullied. Teaching kids to measure that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of their stomach, ask for help when they need it and where to ask needs to be learned by letting them live a little online. Resilience is key.


5) Protect Them and Tell Them


I had a teen client go to college recently and get a new computer. Within a few weeks it was totally unusable because of a virus that had been downloaded. When we asked the teen why they had clicked on some of these unreliable downloads, he said that in the past he had done it and nothing had happened. This is because his parents, being awesome parents, had always either blocked dangerous popups with parental control software and/or had really great virus protection on their computer, but they never told him! It has always been done for him and so when he was on his own, he learned the hard way. If you are protecting your kids or your computer, let them know hat you are doing and how you are doing it so they do not take it for granted!


The majority of kids do not want to do bad things online. They want to play games, share pictures and watch silly Youtube videos. Know the intention if something goes wrong, try to work backwards and always work on teaching resilience and self-reliance in the online world. Parenting and going online are no longer separate, they are one in the same.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sue Scheff: Slimed Online? New Google bomb book is coming!


Yesterday my co-author, John Dozier and I, announced our exciting new book that will be released in fall 2009 from Health Communications, Inc. Then I read this article that I could really identify with. Slimed Online from Portfolio.com.


Michael Fertik, CEO and Founder of ReputationDefender, was powerful force in helping these women fight for their online image. As a client of ReputationDefender, their services are priceless - although there seems to be many of these services popping up now, as the demand grows, I feel that in my experiences, the pioneer of these online reputation management companies start with ReputatationDefender.


Our new book, Google Bomb, will be a must read for anyone and everyone that works and plays online. From protecting your online profile and reputation, to keeping your kids safe, this new book is a must have - and can potentially help you from being a victim of wicked and evil keystrokes.


Years ago gossip was limited to a geographically area that you live in. Today gossip goes viral worldwide! Your one former friend is now a foe or a few clients out of years of a reputable business have decided to take revenge via e-venge! Take cover, Google Bomb can help you protect yourself.