Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blog Safety: A Must Read.

Isn't it amazing how friendships can be maintained, created, and enriched through blogging? Seriously, it is so amazing. I love reading my real life and i-life friends blogs. And every time someone new posts a comment on mine, or I see a new follower I feel a host of wonderful emotions: excitement, warmth, love, connection.

Yes, blogging can be a wonderful thing.

A couple of months ago when I started blogging more frequently a news story appeared on blog safety. What was an innocent and fun hobby-turned into a nightmare for the featured families.

This got me thinking. While situations like the families in the news story are rare- they do happen. The internet makes everything you post public. Accessible to all the wonderful people most likely to be encountered on blogs- but also accessible to creeps, criminals, bullies, and negative energy.

After watching this news story, I practically felt like I wanted to close my blog down. So I did more research.

One question needed to be answered: Do the benefits of blogging outweigh the risks? The answer I came up with, for now, was yes. But only if I implemented a few smart safety measures.

Think about this:
You write a post about why you love living in Blanktown. You write a post about your favorite little restaurant a couple of blocks away from your house. You write a post about spring cleaning and take a picture of the pile of junk sitting in front of your house before being taken to goodwill. You write a post about how exciting it was to watch the Super Bowl on your new Plasma TV. You write a post about how excited you are to go to Hawaii in two weeks! You write a post about your daughter Fifi's princess birthday party. The title of your blog is "Hangin' with the Henrys!"

You have now given someone your town and neighborhood (via your favorite restaurant near your house). You have given them your address (because oops, it's showing in that spring cleaning picture). You have given details about valuables in your home. You have given information about exactly when you will be on vacation and not in your home. You have provided details about your child: her picture, her first and last name, what neighborhood she lives in (making it easy to find what school she attends) and information that someone could use to make her think her family knows them (Your parents told me all about that princess birthday party you had!)

I feel sick thinking about it. Likely, even if some of that information were on the blog, nothing would come of it. But why not take some common sense measures? And so I give you:

Blog Safety Tips

Don't post pictures you wouldn't be comfortable having on the internet forever. When I posted about meeting The Bachelor Jason- I got hundreds of hits to my blog with the traffic coming from a few sources. Curious, I followed one of the links on my analytics page and was led to a Bachelor message board where lo and behold my picture had been copied and posted for all too see and not just for my humble little audience.

Don't post personal information about family members and friends. (ie: names, school names, where people live, etc.) DO use pseudonyms which can be a lot of fun!

Don't use your name as your blog address and if your name is your e-mail address get a separate e-mail for blogging purposes.

Don't post your address or pictures and/or posts containing your address, or other identifying details such as photos of of house, photos of car (especially with the license plate showing) photos of your child's school, or your work, or your church building, or favorite coffee shop. etc.

Don't post details on your blog you wouldn't be comfortable with anyone reading! This includes your boss, your mother, your neighbors, your spouse, your children, your church group, your coworkers, etc!!!

If you have a public domain name make sure you register it as private. (it's worth the extra $7 a year) This means if people search for your blog on the WHOIS Database your information will be private and not revealed.

Do not post about when you will be on vacation, or how much you hate having the house all to yourself because your husband or roommates are out of town. Post about these things after they happen. You can even write it while it is happening, just post it later, ok?

Track your readership. I use google analytics. By doing this, you will be able to see how many people visit your blog each day (a fun tool!). You will also be able to see who links to you, how they link to you, etc. and you can follow these links to make sure it is someone you are comfortable linking to you. You will have information on if certain search terms are linking to your blog, etc. Basically, you will be able to access valuable information.

Delete and comments you are not comfortable having posted.


In addition to these tips it's important to be mindful when on other people's blogs.

Basic Blogging Etiquette

Do not post any of the above information about somebody else on your blog. ie: "The Browns just left for Europe yesterday and I'm sooo jealous!" or "Rachel and I just spent three hours complaining about our jobs!" or "I drove Mickey and her friend Fifi to Sunnyhill Elementary School's science fair today."

When linking to friends blogs link to the title of their blog NOT their names
ie: Aprons and Heels NOT Sarah and Riley Anderson

When commenting on other's blogs use the same names they use on their blog to refer to people. So, if your friend Katie calls herself Mabel and her child Broccoli, you call them Mabel and Broccoli! If you would prefer to not use that name then use the first initial, M., B. etc.

Always ask permission when posting photos of others!

And, BE NICE! don't say anything on anyone's blog you wouldn't say to their face with their children and your mother and your friends overhearing you. The blogosphere, at least my blogosphere, isn't meant to be a nasty place. Real people are behind blogs with real emotions. Let's focus on the positive.


This post is definitely not intended to scare anyone away from blogging. There is power in being educated, aware and smart. And in this fairly new community we could all use a little reminder now and again. Now that I've written this and revisited this topic I'm even thinking of coming up with a cool blog name for myself! Why not?!

I truly believe blogging is a wonderful media and can be used for so much good. I can site so many blogs that have reached me in profoundly positive ways. And on a daily basis I am entertained, educated, and touched by so many smart, creative, witty, wonderful women bloggers!

I encourage you to read these articles for great blogging safety information:

Be a Safe Blogger by Blogging Mommies

Eight Safety Tips For Blogging by Look Both Ways Online Safety Consulting

And the Think Before You Post Campaign by Cyber Tipline


Marques said...

Great tips that I am going to start to implement. Thanks!

candace said...

it's totally true--it's sad that there are so many kids of predators out there that they take advantage of every little detail posted...

Cristie said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this informative post. I learned and relearned a bunch!

Jenna said...

I'm having a hard time with this. I'm pretty sure I've figured out the boundaries I want to set for my own life, husband, kids, etc, but what about all of my friends? I don't want it to sound conceited, but as my blog becomes more popular I get stressed about little things like putting up pictures of my friends children (especially when those friends are a little bit internet naive and put all of their information on their own blogs) or linking to friends in posts when those friends are spilling their guts about where they live and their phone number and their secret passwords.

I might write a post based on this one for my own blog if you don't mind.

Jenny said...

Jenna- yeah those are definitely concerns. I think if I really felt like someone was posting too much personal info on their own blog, I probably just wouldn't link to them.

I did this post because I think it is easy for common sense to get a little blurred in blogging. I honestly think a lot of people just innocently haven't even thought much about blog safety- and they should! There is power in being educated and then deciding on a comfort level!

You can definitely write a post based on this!

Anonymous said...

i easily love your own posting way, very helpful,
don't give up and also keep penning for the reason that it just nicely to follow it,
impatient to look at much more of your current posts, kind regards!

Anonymous said...

Very nice blog! Bookmarked :)

Anonymous said...

Nice post, thanks!