Take charge of your online reputation
Chances are you already have a reputation online, even if you don't want one. On websites across the Internet, people can find information about you.
You should be aware of your online reputation so you can protect it.
This is important for both kids and adults. Some colleges and employers check the web to learn about potential candidates, and because web content is accessible to anybody who searches for it, information can be interpreted in ways you never intended.
And online content can surface even years after it's posted.
Monitor your online reputation
First, find out what information is already on the Internet and assess the impression it leaves on people.
Follow these tips to monitor and evaluate your online reputation:
Search your name. Begin by typing your first and last name into several popular search engines to see where you are mentioned and in what context.
Focus your search. To get more precise results, put quotation marks around your name, so that the search engine reads your name as a phrase and not as two or more unrelated words that just happen to appear in the text. If you find other people who share your name, you can eliminate many false hits by using keywords. You can add keywords that apply only to you, such as your city, your employer, or a hobby.
Search all of your names. If you have ever used a different name, if you use your middle name or initial, if you use a nickname, or if your name is frequently misspelled, search all variations to make sure you don't miss anything important.
Expand your search. Use similar techniques to search for your telephone numbers, home address, email addresses, and personal website domain names. You should also search for your social security and credit card numbers to make sure they don't appear anywhere online.
Target specific sites. Check online phone directories, genealogy sites, alumni sites, the websites of organizations to which you belong or donate time or money, and other sites that compile personal, professional, or contact information about people.
Read blogs. If any of your friends, family members, or coworkers have blogs or personal webpages on social networking sites, check them out to see if they are writing about you or posting pictures of you.
Sign up for alerts. Use the feature, provided by some search engines, that automatically notifies you of any new mention of your name or other personal information.
Protect your online reputation
These tips can help you manage and protect your online reputation:
Safeguard your personal information. A basic strategy to avoid identity theft and online fraud is to keep your personal information private when you go online. Be equally careful about sharing information offline, and be sure you know how organizations will use your information before you give it to them.
Use privacy settings. Most social networking and photo-sharing sites allow you to determine who can access and respond to your content. If you're using a site that doesn't offer privacy settings, find another site.
Don't mix your public and private lives online. Use different email addresses for different online activities to help keep your public and private lives separate.
Choose your photos thoughtfully. Whether you're a child or an adult, make sure potential colleges or employers can't search the web and find photos that make you look irresponsible.
Watch your language and content. You should always assume that anyone can read anything you've written online.
Take action. If you find information about yourself online that is unflattering, embarrassing, or untrue, contact the website owner or administrator and ask them to remove it. Most sites have policies to deal with such requests.