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

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."

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

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, he discovered another user masquerading as himself.
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

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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting, Teens and Facebook

Today more and more teens are joining Facebook as well as the other Social Network - however Facebook seems to be growing. Why? I honestly don’t know, but I do know parents are enjoying Facebook as much as many kids are. Recently I stumbled over an article on Tangerine Times written by a parent helping us navigate our way through the Social Cyberspace. This topic is critical - as keeping your child’s privacy is important for many reasons. Help your kids stay safe with Social Networking - read this valuable article.

How to Help Your Teen Use Privacy Settings on Facebook

Many parents tell me they are frustrated with their teens’ use of Facebook. Here are some of the comments I hear frequently from parents:

“They know more than I do about how to use it and set it up, so how can I control it?”

“My kids are using it when I am not around, so how can I possibly know what they are doing, who they are talking to and if they are being safe with their information?”

“I feel this has gotten out of control, and I don’t really know what to do to get it back under control”

“I am afraid there are predators.”

“I give up. I just hope they aren’t doing anything stupid because I haven’t a clue what they are doing online.”

What I see are parents who over control (they deny their kids use of Facebook entirely) or parents who are completely “hands off”. And some of these are parents who normally wouldn’t dream of sending their child into an unknown situation without a little research. Crazy huh? I’ve decided to begin a campaign to de-mystify Facebook for those parents who feel they are not comfortable enough to set boundaries for their teens. It’s not rocket science but I completely understand their frustration in trying to understand it all.

Here are some tips about privacy settings on Facebook. It is never too late to ask your teenager about their privacy settings, even if they have had their account for years.

Friend Lists

(this is configured by visiting the “Friends area” of Facebook)

you can set up different friend lists based on interests; in the case of teens, maybe they shouldn’t have their friends from their high school in the same friends list with the kids they went to summer camp with 5 years ago OR if they “friend” someone outside of their school. Remember:
you can add each friend to more than one friend group

“Friend Lists” can have specific privacy policies applied to them (this is critical if your child is having a “problem” with one friend but doesn’t want to “un-friend them”

Watch out for Friends’ News Feeds

Most teens use the relationship box but it can be hazardous. A news feed goes out (to all their “friends”) as soon as they change their relationship status. Some teenagers even find out they are bringing “broken up with” because they get a news feed their boyfriend/girlfriend is now “single”. ouch. IF your and your teen decide to keep this particular information private, all they have to do is uncheck the box next to “Remove Relationship Status in the “News Feed and Wall Privacy” page.

Those Goofy Applications

Facebook is known for their fun quizzes and applications. Right now, the hottest app is the “25 Random Things About Me”. People love taking these little quizzes and passing them along to their “friends”. But, keep in mind there are some applications that have an age requirement/limit to them and by simply participating, your teen is sending out a signal that they are over 18 (for instance). Also, applications send out their own news feed.

For instance, “Sarah just took the Sexual Compatibility Test!” gets sent to your “friends” after you’ve taken one of the little “quizzes.” Many publish these without you knowing it. There are two suggestions you can give your teen; don’t visit the applications often (and be careful which ones you do) and review your profile after you’ve participated in a new quiz or fun “something”.
Your teen can customize their wall postings’ visibility. They can also control which friends can post on their wall. Here are the two places do that:

Go to “Profile page”
Click on the “Settings” icon on the wall
Find the box that says, “Who can see this?” and select who you want to view the wall posts
Another way is….
to control which friends can post on your teen’s wall (this is particularly useful if someone is getting a little “nasty” and starting a words war)

visit “Profile Privacy Settings”page
go to the section labeled “Wall Posts”
your teen can disable a specific friends ability to post on their wall and you can select specific friends who can post on their wall.

Remove them from Facebook Search Results

By default, Facebook makes your teens’ presence visible to the network they are in. For instance, in my area, the default group is the SF network. Most teenagers belong to at least their school’s network which (I believe) is the most important group for a teen to belong to. It is their primary means of sharing with each other, debrief the day and communicate about upcoming events. Obviously, there are many other “networks” and groups to belong to. It should be up to you and your child how many and which ones to belong to. As you add groups, the exposure is widened. For good or ill.

Visit “search privacy settings” page

Under “Search Visibility” select “Only Friends” (doing so, will remove your teen from Facebook search results, so make sure they (you) want them removed totally.

Otherwise….you can select another group, such as “My Network and Friends” which (I think) is the default

Click “Save Changes”

Remove them from Google Search

Did you know that Facebook gets lots of traffic from displaying user profiles in search engines. It benefits Facebook. Not necessarily a teenager. Not all of one’s profile is displayed. Currently the information displayed is limited to:

the profile picture
your friends list
a link to add as a friend
a link to send you a mesage
a list of up to 20 fan pages that you are a member of

For plenty of people, being displayed in the search engines is a great way to let people get in contact with you (or discover you). I use it for just this reason to market my blog especially since Facebook tends to rank high in the search results but not everyone wants their information to be public (and I’m plenty careful about what is public on mine)

By visiting “Search Privacy Settings Page” (same as above); you can control the visiblility of your teen’s public search listing which is visible to Google and other search engines. You can turn off the public search listing by simply un-checking the box next to the phraes “Create a public search listing for me and submit it for search engine indexing”. By the way, this option only shows up if you’ve selected “Everyone” under “Search Visibility”.

Avoid Embarrassing Photo/Video Tagging Mistakes

This is one of the most difficult (and common) problems that teens have with Facebook. Sometimes it’s not even the poor judgment of the teen that gets them into trouble but the poor judgment of a “friend” who posts an ill-gotten, poorly timed photo or dis-tasteful video and then tags your unfortunate teenager.

How do you help your teen avoid this form of potential embarrassment?

Visit the page called, “profile privacy” and modify the setting next to “Photos Tagged of You”

Select the option which says “Customize…” and a box while pop up

Select the option “Only Me” and then…

“None of my Networks” if you would like to keep everything (all photos/videos) private.
If you’d like to make tagged photos visible to certain users, choose to add them in the box under “Some Friends”

In the box that displays after you select “Some Friends” you can type either individual friends or a friends list

Photos Privacy Page

Many times people will go to the effort of turning off their tagged photo visibility to certain friends but yet “forget” about their photo albums. If you are trying to make all your photos invisible you have to do so with each album as well.

There is a specific “Photos Privacy Page” where you can manually configure the visibility of each album. This setting is extremely useful and I highly recommend you take the time to show your teen how to use it and encourage them TO use it. It may take some time initially to set up, but in the long run, only the people you truly want to view your photos, can see them.

Contact Information

Last by not least, make sure your teen has not listed your home phone number under contact info OR home address. In fact, this is probably the one area that I think parents should have the MOST say in. After all, your teen’s phone number, address, age, school etc are all pieces of information that are negotiable!

That’s my 2 cents. Hopefully some of you will find this helpful. I’ll continue to update and add information as parent/readers write in with other questions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sue Scheff: Do you know what Google is Saying about You?


Forget your references, your ­résumé, and the degree on your wall. “Whatever’s in the top 10 ­results of a search for your name on Google—that’s your [professional] image,” says Chris Martin, founder of the small internet company Reputation Hawk, which is one of several outfits that focus on keeping that top 10 clean for their clients.

For victims of cyber-slurs, cleanup doesn’t necessarily mean removing bad press. Companies like eVisibility, Converseon, and 360i concentrate on generating ­positive content—but not too much at one time. If Google detects a ­sudden flood of suspicious Web postings, it will assign them low trust scores, preventing them from rising to the top of search results.

Nino Kader, CEO of International Reputation Management, uses a positive-content approach, calling its strategy a mix of “old-school PR and high tech.” The firm builds social profiles (on MySpace or Facebook) for clients and promotes them to blogs; it also drafts news releases and solicits coverage from traditional press outlets. Scrubbers generally work on retainer and charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 a month.

A handful of scrubbers do try to actually remove negative content, using coercion, compromise, and occasionally cash. A first step is to contact the website and ask that the harmful post be removed. “For us to pay the site for removal is very uncommon, but less than 1 percent of the time, we have to do it,” says ReputationDefender CEO Michael Fertik, whose company charges a monthly fee and $30 for each item they persuade a website to remove. If a site refuses to erase an offending post, the next step is to negotiate a compromise. Ask the site administrator to substitute a screenshot for the actual text of the harmful post (a screenshot is an image, so the words no longer register as text to Google and won’t come up in a search).

When it comes to your online image, these companies argue that no one can afford to shrug off a slight. As Fertik says, “The people who are reading stuff about you on the internet don’t have to believe what they read about you beyond a reasonable doubt.” They just have to believe it enough to not hire you.
By Megan Angelo for News and Markets

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sue Scheff: Teens and Hate Websites

“Hate, unfortunately – it’s a virus. There’s been racism, anti-Semitism. There’s been discrimination against people throughout the ages. The Internet just provides an instant tool and access to it.”

– Deborah Lauter, Anti-Defamation League

By some estimates, 70 million kids are logging onto the Internet every day, and many are viewing sites that are increasingly disturbing.

Jesse Granger, 15, says, “I’ve come across hate websites. There was one about the Ku Klux Klan, and it had a lot of pictures of recent parades and marches.”

Sixteen-year-old Quincy Kelly saw a web site that “was talking about how slaves should be happy that they got brought over to America from Africa.”

Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League has been monitoring these sites for years. “Hate, unfortunately – it’s a virus,” she says. “There’s been racism, anti-Semitism. There’s been discrimination against people throughout the ages. The Internet just provides an instant tool and access to it.”

It’s also a sophisticated tool, especially in terms of attracting young web surfers.

Lauter says, “Some of the [hate] websites actually have games for children. The websites are attractive visually. There are puzzles, word games – it’s pretty sick when you look at them.”

And kids don’t even have to be looking for them to inadvertently access them.

“A perfect example would be a student doing Internet research and they plug in something as simple as ‘Martin Luther King,’ which is a very typical one. And some of these racist websites will be accessed and a kid could go on and start researching and think what’s there is fact,” says Lauter.

That’s where parents come in, she says, to make sure their kids are aware.

“[Children] need to understand to look at things critically,” says Lauter. “They need to understand that not everything on the Internet or everything they read is the truth.”

And as kids become more sophisticated and Internet savvy, they will learn to weed out fiction from fact.

Matthew Burnett, 14, agrees. “If you use your common sense you can see through most of it,” he says.

And 15-year-olds Kelly Raines and Rebecca Turner say, “I think that if people are going to put that on, they’re going to put that on. And it’s just a matter of whether you take it, or like, just be like, ‘that’s stupid.’ I’m not going to worry about that.”

Tips for Parents

The Internet has opened the door to a wealth of information at our fingertips. But it has also brought instant accessibility to illegal drugs, pornography, hate websites and more. It’s important to set guidelines regarding your child’s Internet usage. Consider these important steps from the University of Oklahoma police department:

Learn about the Internet – If you are just starting out, see what information and classes are offered by your local library, community center, schools or newspaper.
Get Involved – Spend time online with your child -- at home, at the library or at a computer center in your community. Your involvement in your child's life includes his/her online life. Your participation and guidance is important to help ensure your child’s Internet safety.
Stay Informed – Learn about the latest parental control tools that can help you keep your child safe online. Stay abreast of what’s in the news about kids and web sites.
Become an Advocate for Kids – If you see online material or practices you do not like, contact your Internet Service Provider (the company that provides you with a connection to the Internet) or the company that created the material. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to help this growing medium develop in positive ways for kids.
According to, there are steps you can take to help prevent your child from seeing inappropriate content on the Internet. Consider the following suggestions:

In an online public area such as a chat room or bulletin board, never give out identifying information, including name, home address, school name or telephone number.
In an email, do not give out identifying information unless you are certain you are giving it to someone both you and your child know and trust. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child's name if your service allows it.

Get to know the sites and services your child uses. If you don't know how to log on, have your child show you. Find out what types of information the services and websites offer, how trustworthy the information is and if parents can block objectionable material.

Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission.

Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear people over the Internet, it is easy for them to misrepresent themselves. For example, someone who says he/she is an expert in a certain field may actually be a biased individual with an agenda or someone with harmful intentions.

Not everything you read online is true. Be wary of any offers that require you to come to a meeting or have someone visit your house. Also, research several different sources of information before referring to something you read on the Internet as “fact.”

Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor your kids’ compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child’s or teenager's excessive use of online services or bulletin boards, especially late at night, may indicate a potential problem. Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.

Make computers a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child's bedroom. Get to know your children’s "online friends" just as you do their other

Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Center for Health Statistics
Smart Parent
The Police Notebook
The University of Illinois

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parents Universal Resource Experts - Sue Scheff - What is Your Teen Posting Online?

This is a very interesting article that will make parents think when safety trumps privacy - do you suspect your teen or tween is posting disturbing photos or communicating with questionable others? As a parent is is our responsibility to help keep our kids safe online. Having open lines of communication can help tremendously and helping them to understand the consequences of unflattering posts is critical.

We will spy on your teen’s website for you

More and more worried parents are resorting to using data-tracking services to keep up with what their teenagers are doing on the internet, writes Siobhan Cronin

Irish parents are the best in Europe at monitoring their kids on the internet. However, their kids are the least likely of all European children to turn to mum or dad for advice when something happens to them online.

These were the results of a recent survey by the European Commission into internet supervision by parents.

While our parents might be good at keeping tabs on their kids, cyber bullying is still on the increase, sometimes with tragic results.

Cork girl Leanne Wolfe’s horrific tales of bullying were revealed in her diary, days after her death by suicide last year.

Her sister later told of the nasty text messages and vicious internet entries which led Leanne to take her own life.

It is real-life stories like Leanne’s which have led thousands of American parents — and now a few hundred Irish ones — to resort to using a service that will keep tabs on what their children are reading, and uploading, on the web.

But it’s not just bullying that worries parents. Unfettered access to the web for our kids has also meant open access to them from anyone who is ‘roaming’ around in cyberspace.

This has led some parents to take the ultimate action — spying on their own children.

The founder of Reputation Defender, Michael Fertik, has been called to justify his online service: “Would you like to know your 16-year-old daughter is putting pictures of herself wearing only a bra on the web? Yes. People are not born with good judgment and it rarely develops by 15,” he says.

But another defence of Fertik’s service is, he claims, the prevalence of web bullying.

“When we were at school, we wrote mean notes to each other but you threw the piece of paper out the next day — now it’s on the internet wall forever,” he says.

Fertik’s solution, MyChild, scours the internet for all references to your child — by name, photography, screen name, or social network profiles.

For about €9.95 per month, the ‘online spy’ will send you a report of what your child has posted on the worldwide web.

Its approach is unashamedly tapping into parents’ paranoia: “Worried about bullies? Concerned that your teens’ friends and peers are posting inappropriate materials online,” the site asks.
Fertik, who says he has a “few hundred” Irish customers already, says his company grew out of a need to protect online privacy.

“Young people do the same things that they always did,” he points out. But now it’s on a wall on a web page. The internet is like a tattoo parlour.”

The firm, which started in his apartment in Kentucky, and now employs 65 staff servicing 35 countries, brought in revenues of $5.5m (€4.3m) this year.

He insists there is no “hacking” involved. His staff go through legitimate channels, but are simply better trained in the ways of teenage internet usage than most parents.

“We always encourage the parent to get the password — we don’t want to be spying on kids,” he adds.

One of the things that often causes concern among parents is the practice of their own lives being discussed on a website. “These things have always been discussed by children, but now it’s up there for everyone to see. Things like: ‘My parents are fighting’ or ‘I think they are going to get a divorce’.”

In pre-web days, we all had very intimate conversations with our peers about our home lives — either in person, or on the phone. Now it’s all on the internet, Fertik notes.

Once the offending material is identified, Reputation Defender can delete it, on the instructions of the parent, whether it involves comments, photographs or videos posted on social-networking sites, or on chat rooms or forums.

The service has become so popular that the company now offers packages to adults to manage search engine results, ‘reputation’ for career purposes, and general ‘privacy’ — so that you can stop sites selling your personal information to others.
But that very privacy is the reason that children’s rights organisations around the world have come out strongly against the practice.
Michael McLoughlin of Youthwork Ireland, which provides support and youth services for over 40,000 young people, says that while there may be some justification of the service for younger teens, this could become somewhat blurred when dealing with children of 16 or 17 years of age.
“At that stage in their lives they should really know what they are doing themselves,” he says. Youthwork Ireland is currently preparing guidelines for youth workers dealing with online bullying. “We try to tool them up on social networking, and try to improve the safety aspects.”
The ISPCC agrees that children need to be made aware of the risks of online networking. However, National Childline Manager Margie Roe says that while parents need to respect privacy and maintain trust, they also need to police their children if they think they might be in any danger.
“If a parent is concerned about their child, they have a right to protect them,” she says.
“They need to be careful they don’t damage the trust between them and their child, but if they feel their behaviour is in anyway unusual, or their child is disappearing a lot, then it could be justified.”
This would be particularly relevant if parents are concerned their children might be making plans to hook up with people they have only met online, says Margie.
Michael Fertik is adamant that he is not doing anything ethically wrong.
“If a kid is 18 or older, we won’t do it. Parents who are signing up for this feel they don’t know how to keep up with their kids and they don’t understand Facebook or Bebo.”
He says the children themselves have mastered the art of ‘multiple’ personalities, in order to make discovery of their sites more difficult, but Reputation Defender is on their case.
However, even Fertik’s own ’solution’ can be subject to unsavoury interference. The system flags a query when the last name of the parent does not match the child’s, prompting further requests from the applicant, before they are given information on the child’s use of the web.
Fertik’s attitude appears to be that online surveillance is now a necessary evil in our modern world.
“There is no medical privacy for kids, no legal privacy. We are not suggesting they shouldn’t be allowed use the internet, but it’s like driving a car — you want to make sure they know how to drive first.
“We are not spying on someone else’s kid. It’s a new day, the internet brings new threats, and we need new armour.”
- Siobhan Cronin

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sue Scheff: Video Reputation Management - Reputation Defender

Do you feel the need to trust a professional service to monitor your online reputation protect your privacy, and maybe even use for civil and criminal lawsuits? ReelSEO’s Grant Crowell interviews Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender, about where automated tools are today with monitoring video online, what’s expected to improve with advances in technology, and what are some of the best ways people can go about monitoring and managing their ‘video reputation’ today.

Michael’s Bio

For some background, Michael Fertik’s company profile reads: “a repeat Internet entrepreneur and CEO with experience in technology and law. After law school, he clerked for Chief Judge Danny J. Boggs of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In his capacity as CEO of ReputationDefender, Michael serves on the advisory board of The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), a non-profit that works for the health and safety of youth online.”The following video clip features an roundtable panel discussion about online reputation management with Michael Fertik on “Digital Age” - WNYE/Ch 25 (NYC TV):

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ReputationDefender Launches New MySpace Page

ReputationDefender recently launched their MySpace page.

As the Internet expands through all new Social Networking websites, keep in touch with your own name and reputation. Remember, what you post today can haunt you tomorrow. Parents, take a moment to review ReputationDefender/MyChild - to help maintain your kids online profile.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sue Scheff - ReputationDefender Official Blog

Learn more about ReputationDefender on their recently launched Official Blog.

Many people have heard me talk about their services and how they help you maintain your online image. ReputationDefender does much more! Read about the teacher who got fired for photo's posted on MySpace.