You might be surprised what you discover.
I told a teenager the other day that if I owned a restaurant and he applied for a job, I would google him to see what kind of person he is. He kind of blew me off until I suggested I google him right then. His eyes got huge. So of course I googled him, in front of him. His name came up with a Twitter account, a Facebook account. When I saw his screen name on Twitter I googled that and found him on Instagram. His privacy settings were ok for Facebook, I couldn’t see his posts (he was relieved) but when I showed him what pictures were not hidden by his privacy settings he was surprised and a little embarrassed because his profile picture was a colorful unicorn. His Twitter and Instagram were not private because he wanted lots of followers. I was able to read his posts and they were full of bad words and sexual innuendo. He wasn’t breaking any laws, but I let him know that if I was a potential employer I would not hire him. During the whole conversation he was squirming in his seat, humiliated and said he was going home to change everything. The next day I googled him again and he had done so. Message received.
The reason I did this was to show him that in today’s society employers, scholarship judges, college admission staff and potential relationship interests do their homework. In our state we have a website where you can put in someone’s name and see all of the legal proceedings against them, for free, not on a background site you pay for. Any smart dating person looks here too.
I had this discussion with a female client of mine and her internet behavior was pristine. I gave her kudos for doing a good job with her privacy settings. I also pointed out that in one picture I could see, she was wearing her cheerleading outfit with the name of her school on the shirt. So even though she didn’t post her name or age or location, a potential creeper could figure it out from just one picture. This is something she had not considered.
Do you know what your internet presence looks like? How about your child’s? It is typical for a kid to do things on impulse and not think about the long term consequences. It is our job to teach them, to show them. To kids today the internet is comfortable and common and they aren’t afraid of it like we were when we first started putting parental controls on every computer we had years ago. Now that is much more difficult to do and our kids think there is no need for it.
Take some time to Google Yourself and Google Your Kid to see what’s out there, and have a conversation about being more aware and more safe. And take that unicorn off your profile picture kid! (Just kidding.)