Friday, May 28, 2010

Managing your online identity

The latest report from the PEW Internet and American Life project has some good news and some concerning news in it when I read through it today. 

It was heartening to see that young people (age 18-29 ) are the most active at managing their online reputations, as can be seen in the graph.

Of concern are the numbers of people in the older age groups - those more likely to be teaching our children - who  do not take active steps to manage their privacy.  I guess the presumption is that they don't know how. 

There has been a thread running this week in the MLE reference group forum online about what social networking NZ schools have blocked, or conversely what they have actively decided to open.  From the responses I get the feeling that schools are mostly blocking everything rather than teaching students how to manage their online identity and activities. This is not surprising if the teachers don't know how to do it themselves.

When speaking at conferences, from time to time I ask the audience "Who Google's themselves?"
People look self-conscious about raising their hands until I say that it is nothing to be ashamed of.  If we are unaware of what is (or isn't!) being said about us, then we don't know where to start with managing our identity. A Google Alert is so simple to set up and so informative.
As a parent I am amazed by people who don't Google their own kids from time to time (or have Google Alerts set up).  Those who challenge me about this invariably raise the issue of their own child's right to privacy - from them.  My response to that is, "If all the other millions of internet users can see it, why should I be the only one who refrains?"

I recently showed this video to our Lead Teachers and some interesting discussion ensued....

The full report is available here:
Young adults are the most active online reputation managers in several dimensions. When compared with older users, they more often customize what they share and whom they share it with.
Those ages 18-29 are more likely than older adults to say:
  • They take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online -- 44% of young adult internet users say this, compared with 33% of internet users between ages 30-49, 25% of those ages 50-64 and 20% of those age 65 and older.
  • They change privacy settings -- 71% of social networking users ages 18-29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. By comparison, just 55% of SNS users ages 50-64 have changed the default settings.
  • They delete unwanted comments -- 47% social networking users ages 18-29 have deleted comments that others have made on their profile, compared with just 29% of those ages 30-49 and 26% of those ages 50-64.
  • They remove their name from photos -- 41% of social networking users ages 18-29 say they have removed their name from photos that were tagged to identify them, compared with just 24% of SNS users ages 30-49 and only 18% of those ages 50-64.