Doxing (short for document tracing) is the process of having your true identity revealed online, even though you had been posting anonymously using a pseudonym or other alias. It is also a form of cyberbullying. Why should parents care? Because your teen may be at risk.
Consider websites/social networks where anonymity is allowed or encouraged, such as Reddit, Ask.fm or 4chan. The reason that you’re acting anonymously could be because you’re doing something that you don’t want others to know about, or it might be something completely harmless. In any case, if you believe that you are anonymous, your guard is probably down, and your actions may be more crude, unfriendly or embarrassing than they would be otherwise. What if everything that you’ve done online is revealed publicy?
On Reddit, users choose their own user name and it is almost always not their real name. On 4chan, users are not permitted to register, so their user name is a randomly generated set of characters. FYI, 4chan doxing doesn’t usually happen on 4chan, rather, is happens when a group of 4chan users decide to dox a user from another network like YouTube or Facebook.
We specifically mention Reddit and 4chan because their users tend to be more computer savvy than average, and so their ability to discover someone’s true identity and do the doxing is actually quite impressive.
Why does the doxing happen? Something it’s merely sport, and other times it’s because a user is disliked or has anonymously posted an unpopular or distasteful opinion. In many cases, the doxers consider what they’re doing to be a public good, but it can have unintended consequences. And if you are doxed, your name, email address, social media profiles and other information can be made public.
How can your teen (or you) avoid becoming the victim of doxing?
Choose a unique user name for each anonymous network that you use – if you have the same user name for all accounts that you set up, it makes it very easy for a hacker to link them together
If you are posting things that you don’t want linked to your true identity, use a throwaway email address – using email@example.com when setting up a social media account is not a great idea is you’re up to hijinks
Act appropriately online – if you never post anything inappropriate online, the fallout from the doxing will be minimal (unless your SSN and banking information is unearthed)
Do not post deliberately unpopular opinions (trolling) – you will run the highest risk of being doxed if you are deliberately pulling the chain of a person or group who has the resources to track you down
Teens need to keep it clean online, but for those who prefer to be a little edgier, we advise guarding your identity closely.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.