So as some of you may know we canceled cable back in July. It's been an interesting adventure & I've recently written for another blog about it. I'll share that link here once it is published. Anyway, we've been enjoying the freedom of streaming tv & for me that means catching up on old Lifetime movies which are my guilty pleasure.
I'm currently watching one called "I can make you love me" aka "Stalking Laura". The movie is a true story & as I watch it I remember when this really happened. The stalking hit it's peak around 1988. I actually think I remember an interview on Oprah with Laura Black. I was around 12 or 13 at the time.
So anyway, as I'm watching this I've been creeped out at how this stalker tricks a co worker into showing him Laura's private files, followed her to her local hang out & given her weird gifts. Yet then I think of how easily he could stalk her today online. No need to trick a co worker to find out her birthday (he used that as an excuse to get her address), he could just Google her name & find her info online. If he wants to know her local hang outs he can view her Facebook status & family photos. He could befriend a family member to learn more about her & so on.
I think it's very important for us all into todays world to learn how to protect our privacy. But, before I get into that a lot of times it is really helpful to look people up online. Instead of calling a new friend for their address you can just look them up online. Or a stranger calls your phone you can simply Google their number to see who they are. Want to check our your teens new friend? Check Facebook & social media sites. Even work places look at us online.
Do you know how to protect your privacy online? I'm still learning but there are a lot of things you can do & the first one is very simple. DO NOT USE YOUR REAL NAME AS A USER NAME. It is a USER name for a reason. A USER NAME is "another name to use instead of your real name". I see people online using their real name on public forums & sometimes they slip up saying their city/State. I once saw a friend do this & I freaked her out finding all kinds of things about her by typing in her first name, last name, city, state & her place of work. It scared me too, but it made a point to a lot of my friends online.
Educate yourself on social media privacy. Facebook has them & I've found after updates they turn some privacy settings off so I check them every now & then. Make sure your kids do the same. While I'm speaking of kids I will say every parents needs to FRIEND their kids who are school age. You need to know who your kids are talking to & make sure they don't give out private info.
I've found "friending" my kids on Facebook is very helpful when family & friends "friend" them too. We once had my sister inlaw tell me that my oldest had something "inappropriate" on her Facebook page. My sister inlaw knew my daughter would not do that & was concerned. So was I. My husband & I looked on Facebook & could not see anything wrong. It didn't show up on our feeds & neither did it show up on my daughter's feed. We then tried look at her feed on different browsers & we then saw something.
It was a photo with some cuss words on it. Long story short since my daughter's Facebook feed was slow at the time it was pulling in things from her friends feed. Her friend had "liked" a photo with cuss words on it & it was then on my daughters feed. My husband & I couldn't see it since our Feeds were busy & active at the time. We had this happen another time with a family friend from our church. He just warned us he saw something concerning posted on her feed & he let us know.
Now some may think I'm encouraging our family & friends to be nosy & tattle on my kids Facebook feeds. What I'm saying is as that old saying goes "It takes a villiage to raise a child." There are times I can't look out for my kids & it's nice to know I have sister inlaws, brother inlaws & family friends who can alert me if they see something bother some.
Some may think cuss words on a photo on Facebook is no big deal but the way I see is it is I don't want my children to be thought as someone who would cuss & then share that cussing with others. Our family does not cuss & we feel it is wrong to cuss. Those are values my husband & I teach our kids. A lot of our friends do not cuss either & they would feel offended if they saw cussing on Facebook. We would not want our kids to be the one offending them.
Stalking can take many forms I've known people who have been stalked online, impersonated online & had family photos stolen. One woman I knew had a woman stalking her for about 5yrs. It all began on a Twins forum. This woman shared her photos on a public forum. Another woman took these photos then made another account on another forum. This woman then pretended to be my friend, pretended these babies were hers & even wrote about the twin babies using their real names. My friend took all the precautions she knew by changing her user name, removing photos from the public form but then went someone else online to keep sharing more photos. She thought the new site was safe & felt safe using her new user name was safe. This woman some how tracked her down & kept stealing the photos. She was even so sure of herself she made a new account on that same forum posting as my friend then using her current avatar like she was throwing it in her face that she could get away with it.
My friend went to the police but at the time nothing could be done. As I said this went on for 5yrs. I've lost touch with this friend but last I heard it was still going on.
How do you protect yourself from this? One thing my friend did was often Google searching her own name to see what came up. This is how she found the stalkers other accounts. She stalked back her own stalker quietly & tried her best to build a case against her. As I saw it didn't work last I heard.
Have you Googled your name? I have & all I found was I'm a character in a book series. lol That was weird to see.
The online world can be scary when it comes to your private life. I used to be active on Yahoo Answers & one thing I saw often was some users known as trolls finding family photos & claiming the people in them are their family. It was easy to see they are lying at times. I once found someone using some wedding photos claiming they were from their recent wedding. The user asked something like "This is my husband Mike Jones& I'm Betty Jones. Do you like our wedding photos?" The fact they used their "real names" tipped me off they may be troll. Most adults do not use their names online. The photos had a watermark on them. I look up the photo company, found the website, clicked Wedding Photo Samples & saw these exact same wedding photos were published back in early 2000s not 2013 as the "troll" claimed. Some may shrug this off but it is creepy someone can take your wedding photos then write a story claiming this is them & they were just married a week ago.
I've seen this over & over again on Yahoo Answers & it makes mad to see it used with photos of children. One user put up photos claiming they were the girl in the photo who was about 15. She was asking if she was pretty & did she have a big butt. The photos again were watermarked. A simple Google search took me to Flickr to a womans account last used in 2010. The teen girl was now 4yrs older. I actually messaged the woman giving her a link to this trolls account. It showed this troll had stolen a lot of their family photos. The woman actually didn't even know the account was still active. She removed the photos quickly. She was thankful I let her know about it.
I'm not trying to scare anyone or play internet detective but people really need to understand how your private life online is not always private. While I'm guilty of putting up family photos on Facebook I'm still a little concerned at times. I have the security settings high on my account & hope it does it's job.
A Law & Order SUV once had Stabler say something like "We can lock our doors & teach our kids not to take candy from strangers but when our kids get on the computer we are letting millions of strangers/pedophiles into our home." That's a very true & powerful statement.
I don't like ending on negitive notes so I'll try to flip all this into a positive by playing Pollyannas "nice game."
The online world & real world are full of strangers. Most of them are nice people. We can't live our life in fear. We just need to educate ourselves & our children. That is the best we can do.