Web-savvy family: Have you looked yourself up on Google lately?



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On January 28, people in Canada and the United States observed Data Privacy Day. It’s an effort to shine the light on protecting your private information online and encourage citizens to think about the content they are putting out on the Internet. But what does this mean to us as parents? How can we explain this concept to our children? And what does it mean to be a good online citizen?

I wanted to share a few tips that will put us on the right path and ensure that we’re all conscious of these kinds of risks. 

Protect your password

Changing someone else’s password is a classic way that children abuse trust and play practical jokes on each other. It seems like a harmless prank, but this can lead to accounts being mismanaged, or private information being shared and broadcast across social networks. In good cases it can cause embarrassment; in bad cases, it can cause irrevocable damage to someone’s reputation. 

Drive home the fact that your kids should only be sharing their passwords with you. You can also help them set up their passwords to ensure they’re complex and unique.

What you don’t know can hurt you

Today, most online teens and tweens understand that you should not engage in any personal conversations with strangers on the Web. That being said, we still see a high number of young adults accepting requests from strangers on social networks. Because these sites appear to be more secure and personal, they have become a playground for criminals.

As a general rule, if you don’t know the person, you should not add them to any network, especially ones that divulge your personal information.

Know your digital reputation

Whether you are being interviewed for a new job or applying to university, you can’t hide from your digital reputation – the impression made when you are viewed through search engine results.

I recommend reviewing your children’s online reputation together and review their online activities – you can do this by setting up Google alerts. Showing your kids what information they’ve made public may help them understand that their online activities can have consequences. It’s not too late to delete comments, photos, or other content that’s been uploaded, but remember, it’s always easier to publish something online than to have something removed, so it’s always a good idea to take preventative measures.

A Google search can now define us. It can leave a lasting impression and a positive or negative effect on how we are portrayed. Let’s be aware of what personal information is available to the online public and do our best to manage this content – and most of all, help our children manage their digital footprint. Data Privacy Day is a great step in this direction and I’m hopeful that this kind of conscious online behaviour continues to grow.

Lynn Hargrove is the Director of Consumer Solutions for Symantec Canada.

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