Are You Safe Online? Part 1- PICTURES

During the teen technology workshops we talk a lot about things that put us in danger, especially on the Internet and with Social Media. We creep around these sites and find things people are doing that are putting them at risk so we can talk about them; how to avoid making these mistakes and how to help others be safe.

We discovered a bunch of good ways to use these sites, but the ways that put up red flags made us really nervous because... well, we were all doing them!

The trouble areas are all grouped in a few places I decided to dedicate a post to each of these places. So let's look at pictures first.

They are so easy to post online. I can do it from my phone and put it on several different types of sites. I can email them from my phone, and one day (if someone wants to show me how) I might be able to text them. Cool. Handy. But if I don't stop and think about what is in that picture, I might be putting myself at risk because they aren't so easy to remove. Once a picture is online, it can be stored in the archives forever. It can be shared via various social media, saved to other computers, phones... and basically take on a life of its own. It doesn't mean it will, but it can.

This is our list of things we found that put us at risk:
  • Anything embarrassing to anyone. (anyone includes our friends, our children, our teachers... EVERYONE) They are SOOOO funny! But! They stopped being funny when I asked what a future boyfriend or a college would think about these pictures? What if they wanted to run for mayor or their children found it one day? Or what if it became a Meme!?
  • Inappropriate pictures of  anyone. 
  • Parents posting pictures of their children. This one really annoyed them, and these teens were born after parents started doing this. I'm not so sure how these babies who we follow taking their first step, first pee, first big boy pants are going to feel in fifteen years about those pictures of them with their names over them and the date stamped on it. One teen commented, "I know this is funny, and so cute, but if it was me, I would be pissed that my parents posted this and it went viral."
  • Tags. Being tagged in a photos is fun, except when you don't want to be. We found all sorts of examples from being caught at a party you were not supposed to be at because a friend tagged you, to being linked in a Google search to someone negative because they tagged you in a photo.
  • Not asking permission to share, but worse, sharing things you don't want public. This happened to me; I found a neat picture, I asked the host if I could share it and suddenly the picture vanished... hmm. A good rule is to never post things in public you don't want shared. Please stop. Please ask. 
  • Viruses. We did not know that liking or sharing a picture was leaving a digital trace that exposed us and everyone we were linked to through this share. Think before you click. A good example was the picture of a celebrity promising cash to someone who shares this photo. 
  • Sharing personal data. We spent an entire class learning how to protect our reputation and then we learnt that with each Like or Share of those pictures, we were helping to create a personal data base of our preferences. We tested it out and I'll share the results in a different post.
  • Leaving geo-location on them. Heck we even met someone who was using a pen name but left his real life name, date, and location stamp on the picture. Handy for stalkers like us.
  • Personal information. Taking a look, a good look at what is in a picture. Names of churches, schools, street names, house numbers, little brothers peeing it the back. Ohlala. 
Do you have any pictures of yourself out there you wish you could take back? Any pictures that made you cringe? Do a search of your name and images that link to it... surprised? Any other feedback is welcome.


Teresa Cypher said...

It IS always shocking when I Google search my name. As authors, we tend to put things out there associated with the name we're using. It adds up to a lot of info. We do it intentionally for book promotion. It makes me think twice about what I'm willing to share.

Good post!

Valentina Hepburn said...

This is something I've thought about before. I'm not a huge extrovert and generally like to keep things close to my chest, but it's so tempting to throw caution to the wind and put out information or click something because we forget about the human interaction and how far reaching the internet is. Like Teresa, I've realised there's an awful lot of information out there, and it's difficult to call. We want to promote our books but how much stuff do we actually want people to know about us?

Suzi said...

I haven't googled myself for a while and I did it. Everything that came up was stuff I expected. Okay, I only went 4 pages into the search, but it was either my blog/twitter stuff or when I'd been mentioned on other bloggers.

Nothing bad so far. *keeps fingers crossed* :)

I'm kind of glad I didn't grow up in the digital age. You can control what you put out there, but not what your friends do. And kids don't always think before posting. (Some adults too.)

Richard Hughes said...

Wow, Tanya, you've educated me big time about this subject. I've got to think twice now about all pictures I post.

Anonymous said...

Interesting about the pen name. That's something I've struggled with, and I've always erred on the less is more side. Scary stuff.