This was a proud week for our family. My oldest graduated from high school and will be heading off to college later this summer. Thankfully his admission to college wasn’t derailed by his online activity or anything else.
I thought I’d share a true story that happened back in early 2013 when we were starting ThirdParent. We were testing some of our processes by running simulations using real people. We were using my son as a subject and one of the first steps is that we Google his name.
He happens to have a fairly common, unisex first name but a very rare last name (for the purposes of this post let’s call him Jessie Stalemate), and I knew for a fact that he was not active on social media, so I didn’t think we’d find much. Much to our surprise, 7 out of the top 10 search results for his exact name were pornography-related. He was 15-years old at the time.
It turns out that an Eastern European porn actress has the exact same name as my son. Yikes. What made the situation even touchier is that the porn results were mostly low quality aggregation sites, and it wasn’t clear at first glance whether they were pictures and video featuring a porn actor named Jessie Stalemate, or collections assembled by a pornography fan named Jessie Stalemate.
By now it’s a given that some college admissions officers and most employers will check you out online at some point in determining what kind of person you are – perhaps before they’ve had the chance to meet you. This was a bad search result in that context. You can imagine some hiring manager doing this search and thinking. “Wow, this kid is really into porn” and moving on to the next candidate.
Googling your teen’s name really is the first step in making sure that his digital footprint is clean, keeping in mind that others will be very quick to form an opinion.
When you do the Google search on your teen, unless he has a unique name, you’ll probably need to add a geographic qualifier. We recommend Googling “Jessie Stalemate”, then “Jessie Stalemate New Jersey”, then “Jessie Stalemate Flemington New Jersey” until you get a result that is mostly your child. If everything is clean, or if you don’t find anything, you’re probably in good shape. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. Google doesn’t index everything, and some social network allow users to hide themselves from search engines. It’s just a starting point on the road to good digital hygiene.
In some situations like this one, there could be a bad actor who has the same name as your child. In other cases, your child may have made a regrettable mistake that made its way online. If either is true, you have some work to do, or you can reach out to us for help. Oh and by the way, we fixed his search results.
If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!
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