Internet Safety…Are Your Kids At Risk?

This post is going to be hard to write…mainly because I don’t want to scare anybody. In blogland the question of privacy and what to share is a sensitive topic. We all face the decision of how much to put out here when we began blogging.

I chose the path of a semi-generous sharer. My name is real, my kids names are real, but my goal was to keep my last name and location off my blog. In pictures I erase traces of bus numbers, license plates, street signs, and any other trackable information.

I don’t catch everything. Sometimes I slip. But I really try. In this past year I have to say I’ve gotten lazy about our privacy. I decided knowing which state I live in couldn’t hurt anything and I allowed a number of different websites to post my last name.

Yesterday I received an anonymous email titled, “Should Kathy Be Afraid Of A Stalker“.

When I opened the email there was a document to download. I immediately sent it to my sister who is online with me in the morning and asked her if she thought it was spam. She encouraged me to open it and what I found was a power point presentation.

Slide one showed a still frame of my blog and the post that lead to the discovery of my last name.

Slide two showed a picture of Maile on her last day of school…a place mat sitting on her desk with her first and last name.

Internet Safety...Are Your Kids At Risk?

I slipped.

The third slide was a still frame of one of my “Explore The State I Live In” posts.

The fourth slide was a still frame of the listing a Google search pulled up that had my first and last name and an address associated with my daycare.

The sixth slide showed a photo of my home via Google Maps.

The seventh slide showed a video of my children making snow angels in a driveway that looked identical to the home that was pulled up on Google maps.

Internet Safety...Are Your Kids At Risk?

The eighth slide showed an expanded map of our neighborhood with a circle around the name of the nearest elementary school.

Do you want to throw up right about now? Because I did.

The ninth slide showed two photos side by side. The first photo was pulled from my daughters school website and is a photo of the school teachers lined up in the courtyard on picture day. The second photo was pulled from my blog and is of Maile and her friends in the same courtyard on their last day of school.

Internet Safety...Are Your Kids At Risk?

My heart was in my throat. My mind raced through things I could do to make us safe again. I would need to call the cops. There would need to be a record of this. I would need to call the school. I might need to move my kids to another school. We might need to move to a new home altogether. I’d have to see if I could trace the email address that sent the document. I’d have to look into a lawyer who deals with this kind of online stalking behavior.

I was on the phone with my sister trying to work it out. We were disgusted together. Who could do such a thing? Might it be someone I know who’s not happy with my blog? Are my kids in danger? For crying out loud some creep had gone to the trouble to create an entire power point presentation. I mentioned the idea of tracing the email and then my sister giggled.

“I can’t do this to you anymore Kathy…it was me…I sent the email!!! I just wanted you to think about how much information you’re putting out there, and I knew you would just shrug off a conversation about it and probably wouldn’t act quickly to change some of those things.”

And then I started crying. And she felt bad and I made her cry too.

I could have killed her. I wanted to kill her. But the truth is I was SO relieved it was all just a sham that I couldn’t possibly be mad at her. It felt like she had just saved my life in a really weird, twisted way.

The bottom line for me is this.

I refuse to live in fear of what could happen. I fear enough as it is. If someone wants to find me that bad I’m sure there are a number of ways to do so. But my sister is right. I have to do everything I can to make them work for it. I cannot simply hand out all identifying information on my blog. I need to be more careful.

I propose we all take some time to clean up our blogs this weekend. I will be removing every trace of our unique last name from my blog…and I hope at the very least I’ve given you something to think about.

Wouldn’t want you to be next on my sister’s creepy power point list.

Let’s clean it up folks!

Internet Safety...Are Your Kids At Risk?

Comments

  1. Kristi {at} Live and Love...Out Loud says

    Oh my goodness! What a terrible thing for her to do. I was in tears and bile was starting to creep up into my throat. That was scary. Eye-opening, but scary.

    Kristi, Live and Love…Out Loud
    @TweetingMama

  2. says

    Yep…that was a great example for my privacy speech. And well, I think I need to be friends with your sister. She is my kind of gal. I’m sorry that she scared you though. Imagine trying to hide a job like mine in addition to everything else.

  3. says

    Okay, I may comment like 12 times…

    That is scary shit!!! No one but a select few know my real name and no one knows the Mini CB’s names or Mr. CB….

    But everyone knows I live in KS… hmmm, it’s like do we choose to live in a fucking bubble or not?

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing. I too, tried my best to clean up anything that leads to our personal info. Such a relief that it was done by your sis but, I think you should be thankful its her (even though it’s horrible) cos it could be so so so so so much worse if it comes from a total freak/stalker.

  5. says

    Amazing what something like that could do. I was having a panic attack with you!

    I will be double checking my blog this week, thank you for kicking my @$$ into gear.

  6. says

    ugh i was getting sick reading this. then at the end i was just thinking that you’re a really nice person–i would have totally flipped if my sister did that to me. you’re right, though–she’s right, and it sounds like she really cares about you. i try really hard not to mention my kids’ names at all, although a couple of times i’ve had to go re-edit videos when i let it slip. but i don’t do much else to protect me and mine.

    now that you’ve scared the living piss out of me i’m going to do some work to make my blog a little safer for my family.

  7. says

    Wow, this is giving me something (further) to think about. I go back and forth between “if someone wants to find us that badly, they could,” and “crazy people are everywhere! Run for the hills!”

    I’m careful about some specific things, too, but it’s easy to see how a slip up could happen. I’ll be paying even more attention, especially to my pictures, now.

  8. says

    OMG. I would have found a way to strangle her through the phone! But I guess she got her point across…?

    I try not to share our EXACT town, but everyone knows I live in Oklahoma. But I don’t post our last names. Only firsts. But your sister has definitely made me want to double check!

  9. says

    I literally felt sick to my stomach about half way through this post. That is one of the most horrifying things that can happen, feeling as though your family isn’t safe. Thanks for the reminder that we do need to be dilligent! Even if my heart stopped there near the end.

  10. says

    Kat,

    On one hand everything you describe is probably true. Some complete stranger can start putting two and two together to figure out who you are, where you live, and where your children go to school. But that sort of stuff was possible even before the internet and blogging existed. Tom Clancy got a friendly visit from some polite, well dressed government men shortly after publishing “The Hunt for Red October.” Seems some of the stuff he wrote about was still highly classified. He was ready for them with all of his public domain sources, and news stories. All he did was connect the dots of information from various unconnected resources.

    Yes privacy is important, but lets not be afraid of our own shadow worrying about “what ifs.”

    Meet Lenore at Freerange Kids: http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

    All the best
    Philip

  11. says

    Thank you so much for posting this. Although, I know your sister meant well, that was a really scary way to let you know this. This post made me go to my about page and I went and deleted where I live. I know many people know where I live I just don’t want it to be out there. I’ve never used the names of my DH or children only the first letter of their names. Like you said if someone wants to get the information they will get it, but I’m certainly not going to help them. Thank you again for this post.

  12. Renee says

    Definitely unsettling. Google Earth is just freaky.
    I may discuss this with my students when I talk to them about blogs.

    • says

      I talked to Pat about whether the risk of blogging was worth the reward…obviously it’s not, but I have to believe that if I’m as safe as I can be than I’ve done everything I can. Anybody can work hard to track us, online or not. If they’re crazy enough, the blog won’t matter.

  13. says

    OH MY HELLS BELLS this freaked me out SO BAD I was crying.. then I about died when I got the end and it was your sister. Great now I am stuck with my last name in my blog address (i never thought i would actually *blog*) and my sons name ALL over it. time for some serious house cleaning. Thanks to your sister for scaring the (insert your own word here) out of me!

  14. says

    I was so scared for you – and relieved to find out it was just your sister. It was a sneaky thing for her to do, but you at least have both eyes open now and are more vigilant with what you share online. I’ll have to check my blog now and make sure I haven’t completely given out who we are. Thanks for this post.

  15. says

    I’m a little mad at your sister, she made me nauseous and scared the living crap out of me!
    I do what you do, try to keep our last names off of the blog and the name of our small town, although I’m totally open about the larger town we live near. But now I’m going to be watching the little details much more closely!

  16. says

    When I started my blog I was almost paranoid. It would be pretty easy to find me if you try hard enough. But in case you aren’t looking, my name isn’t on anything on purpose. I’m sure it’s on something but not on purpose. I do not use our names. I have the kids pen names. They didn’t ask for me to share our lives. I never call my friends by their names. Initials only. My emails don’t list my name. I have a FB fan page. I only accept friend requests from bloggers I have known for a while or people I went to school with. Maybe three or four of 500 (I went to three high schools) are bloggers.
    It was cruel for your sister to do that but thank God she did. No matter how hard we try we can be found. But we work towards being just a blogger writing about our lives.
    Good Luck!

  17. says

    That is beyond creepy to even think about! I try to use nicknames, and vague references to locations, but I do use my full name, and have linked to my church in a few posts…oops. You know people used to also be able to get your info off of Whois when you sign up a website. My older brother claimed no one could find him on the web, but my mom and I did. A search for his name brought up his Whois page, along with his home address from a website his wife owned. Scary stuff!

  18. says

    WOW apparently I would be a really bad stalker, because I have followed your blog for a LONG time and never once put anything together!

    But good info to know and watch out for!! I’m thinking that would be a great discussion for the San Diego Bloggy Boot Camp! =) Just sayin’

    • says

      It would be a great topic! And I think the fact that you never pieced any of that together just proves how normal and not looney you are. So congratulations!

  19. says

    OMG! I was sick for you! I was thinking what kind off sick person would do this??? Thank God it was your sister, I hoped you kicked her little butt!

    I try to be semi-anonymous also… My name really is Lisa,but I don’t give my last name or the town I live in… but I slip up, too! Scary to think what could happen!

  20. says

    That is a good choice for you. I guess. But do not be fooled. People who obsess about being anonymous on their sites get a very very false sense of security. And the crime odds will show….anyone who wants to take or harm our children…LIVE WHERE WE LIVE. Odds are any potential stalkers or predator lives in your neighborhood. They can watch your kids as you take them on the walk to the bus, follow it to school and can even watch which classroom they go into in the morning.
    Keeping a totally secret identity is not humanly possible. Unless you go all unibomber an live off the grid in the woods or something.

    Check stats. The predator chooses local victims. Almost always.
    The best thing we can do for our kids? Talk to them about what to do, how to yell and signs that someone is not a good person. I am sure you already do that.

    Oh and I personally think this was mean for sis. She could have sent you the same email without acting like it was someone else. Would have had same effect.

    • says

      It’s so sad isn’t it? A lot of times the perpetrators not only live where we live, but they’re people we trust. Why can’t everyone just be normal? Like us? Errrr…like me?

      I’m taking it easy on my sister. She really does feel bad and in her defense the drastic direction she took will hopefully get a lot more people considering the issue of privacy online.

  21. says

    Since I’ve started (irregularly) blogging again, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to privacy & what I would & wouldn’t be willing to wrote about. By blog is not anonymous & given my somewhat unique last name, the fact that I’m a homeowner & therefor listed in the city assessor’s database, my address could be found quite easily. And I’m okay with that, only because I think my address is about as secret as my middle name. Google Earth? Yeah, based on the state of our front yard & what we had on our deck, my husband & I could pinpoint the date, plus or minus 2 weeks, when our house was shot.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m naive because I live in Alaska & feel protected from most of the really bad shit that happens in the world, & maybe someday I’ll get hateful comments from hateful people who think i’m sharing too much information about my life & family online.

    What I do know, is that I have a public flickr account with my real name, a twitter account with my first name & a link to my blog, an etsy shop (with links to & from my blog), I’m on Facebook, which I believe is closed to everyone but my friends, my name (first & last) is posted on my employer’s website & even though I *AM* careful not to discuss details of my job per our personnel policy (and common sense), I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before and/or, it would’ve easy to find.

    My point is, i’m out there to be found should anyone care to, and it’s silly to think otherwise. Sometimes I wish I were anonymous because there are things I would write about but can’t. And then I think that the pressure to stay anonymous & not slip up would add even more anxiety to my already-full anxiety o’meter & i’m glad my name’s on it.

    • says

      Google Earth is amazing. And creepy.

      And I’m moving to Alaska. We can start our own safe colony.

      In all seriousness I agree, living in anxiety is not something I’m interested in doing.

  22. says

    I really did almost throw up while reading this. I’m definitely taking your advice. It’s time to clean house. Thank god it was your sister and not some deranged stalker. Thanks for making us aware of what is at stake when we blog publicly.

  23. says

    You had my heart racing on this one! GEEZ……… And I was TOTALLY kidding when I said I was outside of your house one night (sort of)….I swear I’m not stalking you and your adorable children. But if you need a posse of peeps to help you with any REAL stalker, just give me a jingle…Hawaiian Airlines, here I come! ~Good advice on this one! Thanks :-D

    • says

      At least if another mommy blogger stalking me we can grab some coffee or something…I can just see you stalking the school bus just to make sure my kids got to their classes okay. Ha!

  24. says

    Oh my gosh! I was crying before it even got to the part about the closest school in the neighborhood! Thank your sister, and thank you for sharing this! I have some work to do on my blog. ASAP

  25. says

    This is frightening. My big gaffe, security-wise is FB – I let a few blogger people (you, for instance) know my real name.

    I feel The Boy is a bit safer, we don’t share the same last name. But on FB, I use his name, and he does post things to me from time to time…so the jig’s up with him, too.

    Same with my daughters and stepdaughters – all the last names are different than than mine.

    But I will still go through the blog and change some names to protect the innocent.

    As far as location, I’ve said MO, I’ve mentioned St. Louis – I live in the area.

    I’ve never used The Mister’s first name.

    A while back, I removed myself from some blog directories that had my real name, and changed my twitter name.

    Let’s all just do a bit of housekeeping!

  26. says

    I would have straight up laid the smack down on my sister if she did that. If someone was obsessed enough, I am sure they could find anything. Sending it to your anonymously though is kinda shady. Wouldn’t she have made the same point just by pointing it out?

    • says

      We’ve talked about it before and it’s fallen on deaf ears. She knew she’d need to SHOW me how easy it was, but yes, I think watching the power point and knowing it was from her probably could have been effective. :)

  27. says

    Ok – that’s not even funny … I was so scared FOR you. Glad it was sis!

    I’m a “new” blogger so this is something I have been trying to think about preventing. I don’t ever mention my kids by name & try to avoid reference to the state & town I live in. Definitely no last names. I could never handle a real email like that. I would move into a hole immediately.

    Thanks for sharing it – I’m going to go double check everything. Immediately.

  28. Katr says

    While yes, someone with resources time and obsession could probably find out more about each of us than we’d like, that’s a far cry from performing the feat your sister did. She already knows you, your address, your name, the name of your kid’s school, etc and that information was critical to performing her search. It would not be so easy for a stranger to do. In my opinion your sister’s fear-mongering does considerably more harm than good.

    • says

      I don’t think knowledge of my address or any of that info would have matter. There is only one person with my name in my state and it came up instantly when she google searched it. The name/sex/and approximate age all matched up.

      And I’ll respectfully disagree that more harm was done than good. She made me cry, but it caused me to post this and I think a lot more people will put more thought into what they choose to share after reading it.

  29. says

    OMG… that is some scary stuff! That was so cruel of your sister but necessary. She was obviously scared for you and wanted to make a point. Well, point made and I am so cleaning my blog this weekend and will be careful in the future. I never really think about it too much. I use our real names and never thought about how where a photo is taken can give away where I live. That is scary!

  30. says

    I can’t imagine how scary this must have been for you. I don’t know what I would have done if it happened to me.

    But it makes me wonder what its like for all those people that use their real names as their url? What about the ones that build brands around their real names?

    Like you said, if someone wants to find us or stalk us they are going to but I guess we just have to make it as difficult as possible.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  31. says

    Wow, what an eye-opener. Shame I don’t have a sister to open my eyes like that. If it helps any, I think I was just as terrified for you as you where when I read your blog.

  32. WebSavvyMom says

    –>Your sister makes a great point but for some of us, it’s too late to go back and remove stuff. I’ve tried!

    • says

      I know, it’s hard for those of us who are three years deep in a blog. I think that’s when I go on the defense and think up so many reasons why it shouldn’t matter how much info I put out here.

      Even Heather Armstrong and Ree Drummond share their names…if I ever publish a book won’t I use my last name then? I mean eventually it will have to come out right? What will I do then? And guess what, our first and last name AND address are in our church directory! Now what do I do?

      There are so many arguments to this topic, but I think a good rule of thumb is do what you can. Realize this information is open to a whole lot more people and that our families have not necessarily given us permissions to “tell all”. There’s a lot to consider.

      Does deleting your name from your blog remove it from the history of the internets?

  33. says

    What a scary, but important wake up call. My hubby just pointed out that my photo properties contain part of our name in them. I wasn’t concerned yesterday, but I might want to think about that now.

  34. says

    I kind of WANT your sister to do this for me for two reasons:

    1) I want to know how much harder it is to do when you’re not already privy to someone’s home address, etc.

    2) I have NO IDEA if I’m good or bad about it. I use all our real names but other than that I try not to be specific. But I don’t really KNOW if I’m good about it.

  35. says

    Privacy is a really controversial issue because you end up with opinions that run the spectrum from “reveal nothing” to “tell all”. I’m more in the middle. I think it’s ridiculous to try to protect every piece of information about yourself.

    The reality is that there is a lot out there on each and every one of us that is just there because we exist in the world – even if we never signed up for anything on the Internet. That said, if we ARE on the internet, it doesn’t mean that we should give anyone a road map to find us. Proper precautions to protect our privacy are certainly warranted. And I think what is considered “proper” is different for everyone based on their level of comfort and personal circumstances.

    I hope to teach my son discretion and respect for himself and his future life as he learns to use the Internet. I don’t see that a lot in some of the GenY and Milleniums who have grown up with access to the Internet for most of their lives. Their lives are open books and things they do and post about as a teenager can have unfortunate consequences later on.

    • says

      Great comment Karen! I fully agree, I’m a middle of the road person too. Teaching our kids how to use the internet and what they should or should not share is definitely going to important for us moms!

  36. says

    Oh my! I bet you were about to crap your pants. I’m going to go through and clean up my blog by the end of this weekend. I’ve been meaning to for awhile.

  37. says

    I get that your sister is worried…but wow. To do that anonymously and listen to you freak out and cry? Gah. (Especially after you were out of town for a blog conference and probably already on stress overload!)

    I agree with another commenter that she could put that together because she knew what she was looking for. It’s a lot more complicated when you don’t know the answers. (Like Google stalking ex-boyfriends. Uh, not that I’d know ANYTHING about that. Ahem.)

    I hate fear mongering. I hate our Dateline/Law and Order/CSI culture. I hate that children don’t play in their yards anymore…or ride their bikes around the neighborhood. I hate that moms are always distrustful and hovering and no more than 10 yards away.

    Yes, bad things happen to children. Yes, stalkers exist. Yes, someone could use our blogs to get to our families. But we also have to remember that those cases are rare, and that the world is full of totally normal fully functioning GOOD HEARTED people.

    • says

      I didn’t start crying until after she confessed…I was so relieved. She feels REALLY bad about scaring me and I really think she just thought it would be a funny prank and an eye opener.

      And I totally agree…society, the media, and the advancement of communication tools ie social media, have all created an extremely paranoid culture. I don’t know where I fall on the scale…I just know that I never want an intruder in our lives like the kind we’ve only heard about so far.

  38. says

    What a reality check! Your sister’s “fake stalker” email really put the fear in me, but in a good way. I appreciate the reminder.

  39. says

    I’m glad it was just your sister. Thank you for sharing this. Hubby and I had this discussion over the weekend. I try to keep some info. private, but then again, we are publishers with contact info in our magazines. Walking a fine line.

  40. says

    I have to agree with this. Yes, it is a scary scary world out there, but ya know what it always has been. I had a manager once that refused to put up family photos in her home or office. Someone MIGHT break into her house or office, see she had kids and then go after the kids (never mind that someone who is going to break into a home is not likely to go after a family who isn’t home).

    My blog is for my family and friends who are scattered all across the country. My blog is also a place for me to record the crazy things my daughter says or does so I can remember them. I’m too lazy to try to remember what nickname the girls are called by and too nice to expect my family and friends to remember.

    I honestly do NOT believe my kids are at risk because of my blog.

  41. says

    Oh my, what an awful joke! But such a great lesson. My husband is probably the most paranoid person on the planet, so he is always monitoring my blog and making sure I’m not putting too much personal information on my blog. When I post pics of my kids, it’s usually just a side shot, or far away so you can’t really see their faces. I do have my first and last name on there though, but I don’t ever mention where I live in Utah. Hopefully that keeps me in the clear. Such a scary world. I hate that we have to worry about stuff like this. I had a friend find out the hard way. One day she was checking her sitemeter and noticed a strange url spending hours on her site. She clicked on the link to see who they were. Sure enough, it was a child porn website. She was so upset, and started searching through the pics to see if any of them were her own kids. Then she found a picture that she had once posted on her blog. It was a picture of her son’s bare bum, and it was now out there for all the sickos to see. It was the most horrible experience ever. Now her AMAZING blog is private because of this. It really makes me sad, but also, helps me think twice about what I’m putting out there for the world to see.

  42. says

    It definitely makes you think. I would have been scared to death if I got that. I wrestle with how much information I let out, too. Unfortunately, while my last name is common enough, my first name is ridiculously unique so, there’s no hiding that one.

    I figure if someone wanted to waste their time trying to find me, they can have a word or two with my husband and his two brothers about it. ;)

  43. says

    I try to stress this to people all the time but no one listens to me. Everyone figures “If they want to find me they will” but why hand them the information. They are more likely to go after someone who gives them all the information and doesn’t make them work for it. I do my best to share but not share too much. It’s a hard line and I am not perfect but I do what I can and that is all any of us can do.

  44. says

    wavering between wanting to shoot your sister FOR you… and wanting my own to scour my blog for identifying information…

    maybe your sis needs to get a job as a cyberscout and check out the privacy of all our blogs.

    (no creepy e-mails though – my heart couldn’t stand the jolt.)

  45. says

    DUDE! You had me so freaked out! I’m so relieved it was a prank but ummigawd I’m going to have to kill your sister, lol. I’m one of those people who HATES pranks. I hate playing them on people and I hate, hate, hate it when people play them on me. I always cry.

    But I’m on board. I’m pretty careful on my blog, but I can think of a slip-up or two. Good thinkin’.

  46. says

    Ooh great point and what an impact. Funny enough, my FB page info showed up here as I was about to comment. First , last name and all! I’m sure no one would have a problem connecting the dots! How do you separate things like FB when it interacts with so many things like my blog and twitter? Do I need an anonymous FB too?

    Thanks for the insight!

  47. says

    Can I just say I love your sister?!?!? Everyone should clean their blogs up in my opinion, especially as your children get older and play outside by themselves. It’s a creepy world full of creepy people.

  48. says

    I wrote my comment late last night, so I left out the part where I do think the notion of someone seeking me out, or worse – sending a power point presentation with photos of your house – is totally creepy.

    That is all.
    :)

  49. says

    You make great points here and I wish I wasn’t so open on my blog. I try to be professional with my blog so I use my kids real names and my last name is also on my blog. Maybe I should be a little more careful, but I haven’t been bothered by wierdos yet so I’m not too concerned.

  50. says

    WOW that is scary and crazy., I understand why your sister would do that. I guess its a good wake up call. I think I have been pretty good about not putting my last name up and when i do a google search of my first and last name my blog is nowhere tobe found… This is good for stalkers and for present and potential employers.

    I will look through my blog and check if there is anything I need to clean up. I may not have kids but I don’t want to be in danger either. There are often times where I am home without my boyfriend and I dont need any sexual predator tracking me down. I can only imagine how scary this is for moms

  51. says

    I’m glad it was your sister.

    I’ve mentioned the state where I live (Texas, it’s big y’all) and the area, around Houston (ummm, 4 million people just in Houston), but nothing more specific than that… well maybe that we have a state park. I think there are five or six around Houston. So I guess you could narrow it down further. But then try to find a Jennifer Williams. Makes me so glad that I have a common name. I’m sure it wouldn’t be impossible to find me, but it wouldn’t be easy either. And if someone wants to go to that much trouble well, I think I’ve already made it as hard as I can. I don’t know what else to do other than check out of the internet and I don’t want fear to drive me to that.

  52. says

    Holy hell. That’s all I can say. I know I’ve been lackadaisical about our names & such. I still have old posts with the kids’ real names & stuff. :S Wow.

  53. says

    hmm, nobody would want to stalk me , I only have a handful of “followers” and my blog is not on the public domain. I don’t hand my information out in pamphlets, but I suppose IF someone wanted to they could go post by post through my blog and find me or my kids. But, and I’m not being naive… I don’t think that is a probability. Everyone has to deal with privacy in their own realm of comfort and notorioty. In your case, where you are a more public figure I agree that you need to be more careful. I’m SO glad that it was your sister…man I would have been mad too. That was very scary. wow. XOXOXOXO

  54. kiki says

    bravo to your sister for such an amazing presentation. i don’t look at tiny details of blogger’s pictures, but i can see how a creeper might. scary! and her reasons for making the power point presentation is exactly why i turned my Mama’s in Time Out site private lasy year. it’s amazing what is out on the web about our families and it’s scary that the info can fall into the wrong hands. thanks for posting this, Mama Kat. i hope other bloggers follow your example. Take care.

  55. says

    my mouth was hanging open throughout reading this! it is so disturbing to think about. honestly, i get that your sister was trying to make a strong point, but i would have a hard time not holding it against her if i were you. that’s rough.

  56. says

    Thank you for making me think…

    My first name is unique. My last name is not exactly common. I’m going to go do a little seasonal cleaning, myself…

  57. says

    I think your sister could have done this in a less dramatic way and still the message would have sunk in, but that aside, yes, we do all need to think about what we post if we do not wish the world to know who exactly we are and where we live. My husband is paranoid about my revealing too much on my blog so I am ultra careful, but bottom line if someone really wants to find you then they will.

  58. says

    I so get the “creepy” factor. And I agree – each individual needs to make the decision about how much personal info she wants to reveal on her site.

    But, keeping things in perspective, lots of people conduct business on the internet daily – either for a company or for their own business – and they are identified by their first and last names. Their work may not be as personal in nature as a blog – but all the same, they are putting themselves out there.

    Even “big” bloggers like Dooce and The Pioneer Woman – have made no secret of their names. I haven’t tried to track them down but I presume it wouldn’t be too hard.

    Anyhow -just wanted to present another angle on the same issue.

  59. says

    Your sister is right, however everyday, average people that don’t do anything on a social level have stalkers too. There are studies that show that everyone in their life will have a stalker(s) they don’t know about, at least once. It is smart to pay attention to giving away too much detail, but it is also something that can’t be avoided. We all need to be safe and look out for ourselves and our friends. I’m glad it was a joke, but you are right to not fear everything that happens in life.

  60. says

    Holy. Cow. I think I’d kill your sister, too. At the same time, though, it is scary all the things you listed that came in that email. I feel the same way you did – who the heck is going to take all that time to find me in “real life”? I try to be careful and not post too many things that will identify me/family/whereabouts, but I know some are out there.

    Was your sister right, though, that you wouldn’t listen to a casual conversation? Was the point driven home so much better with her email?

  61. says

    Wow, your sister should get points for creativity.

    I don’t know how open I am- I see you can get my last name from my blog (I’m standing in front of a sign with it) and most definitely get the name if you follow the trail to facebook. You could probably find my address in a similar manner- but then, if you were a stalker, what are you going to do? and why? I’m not stalkable. What I divulge on my website should scare people away (unless they want to kill a witch, then I’m open target). But, I think my chances of being hurt by someone who tracks me are about the same as being hurt by a stranger. I, however, do not have a following like you, or cute kids at home.
    Pagan Soccer Mom had someone who went through the trouble of finding her name (I did that easily via her other writings) and then finding her number and calling her for something. I took about five minutes and could find 7 people who potentially might be her, including address and phone via yellow pages.com. I checked for me, and I’m not in there. You should see if you are.

  62. says

    I am a private blogger not using real names, although I have posted pics of my kids in private posts, realizing however that any person with access and a grudge could post my children online. What your sister did is my biggest fear with going public. Thanks for reminding me why I’m private and giving everyone else a heads up.

  63. says

    Wow – I don’t know how you even made it through the whole slide show without calling the police! Thank goodness it was just your sister but boy does she ever have some good points! And I am taking em.

    Thanks for sharing this extremely important and useful information!

  64. says

    I try really hard to keep the information from getting out there, but on a fairly regular basis, someone puts up info that includes more about me than I would like online. I find it very frustrating, because it’s things that I can’t control that put my name out there…

  65. says

    I wish, wish, wish I could get my name off my blog. I put it there before I ever knew what I was doing, and now I’m just out there. I hate it. But short of shutting the whole dang thing down, I don’t know what to do about it.

  66. says

    Great article, thanks so much for sharing. And thank goodness it was your sister and not a stalker!

    We’re big advocates of taking simple precautions to keep friends and families safe… but you’re right, it’s tough and it’s easy to get complacent. We’ve all been there. I really like your idea of setting a day aside to clean up any personally identifiable information online.

  67. says

    I am sorry you had such a scare but you know how we can get lazy about safety anywhere and it takes a scare to snap us back be it a car that runs a light or leaving the knife in a precarious position on the counter (me guilty of that) and then it falls? This was yours and I am glad it was your sister and not some crazy freak (although, how much time DOES she have on her hands?). It is a good idea to do some fall clean up and I am going to look at it this weekend. :)

  68. says

    WOW! I recently (like in the last 2 months) changed my blog name for this reason….it used to contain my last name…but that was before I started participating in memes and putting it out there for EVERYONE to see. now it is not a name at all…it’s a line from one of my favorite scriptures. I do still use our real first names….but mostly because I have 200+ posts…and it would be mind boggling to try to go back and edit each and every one that has our names in them to something non identifying. And I do have our pics out there. I have tried to not put the city where we live…but it *may* be out there in some of my posts. I am private by nature, and privacy is also a hazard of my profession (I work in medical records)…so I am probably a tad more cognizant than some. What an eye opener though…..take care and good luck!

  69. says

    I agree with Wendy and Nina. I have my last name and my location on my blog, as well as my kid’s names. I try not to use my best friend’s real names because I don’t think it’s my place, so I’ve had code names for them in the past.

    I guess that I believe between Facebook and public record, if someone wanted to find out about me or my family, it would be very easy. I don’t think they’d even have to use my blog to do it. I believe that in general the world is a good place, and I don’t worry about this kind of thing. I know that something bad COULD happen, but I think it’s just as (or even more) likely to happen in real life, in my neighborhood or town.

    That being said, if I got an email like that it would totally freak me out. To me, the freakiest part was the idea that someone had spent all that time making that presentation! I’m glad it wasn’t a real threat for sure.

  70. says

    I had a friend who had her children’s photos “lifted” from her blog and were put on a “child love” website of some sort. How someone found them there to tip her off has always haunted me…but she immediately made her blog private and got the authorities involved to have that site taken down.

    I learned from her…but now I think I may need to go over my blog to make double triple sure.

    Sorry it took your sister scaring you half to death to open your eyes.

  71. says

    Wow. I would have been freaked out. I have had stalkers before so I am pretty careful. I don’t post pics of my daughter and I’ve never called her by her real name, I don’t call my hubs by his real name either. I don’t name her school or say where I work. I’m paranoid.

  72. says

    Ugh, I’m SICK! I’ll be putting my blog on private until I can go thru it. AND I’m kinda freaking out about all the ramdon people from blogs I have on my facebook. Ugh, I’m all jacked up now! But your sister did us all a favor. Thx!

  73. Christi says

    give your sister a hug for me. i just put my blog on private until i can go thru and check each post.

  74. says

    Woah, that is creepy! Your creepy sister!

    But, in all seriousness, this is something I really struggle with. Like now, for instance, leaving this comment…it prompted me to leave a “facebook comment” and I ignored it…I don’t want everyone of the people that read your blog to know about my facebook page. I try hard to keep names private on my blog, using nicknames or letters instead, and if I post a picture of someone other than me, my husband, or my best friend, I try to pick one that does not show their face directly. Don’t know why I think that matters, but I do–on this, though, I’ve become a bit lax.

    Safety online really freaks me out. It’s a public blog, anyone in the world can read it, and there are some serious creeps out there. More than once I’ve considered privatizing or deleting my blog and have even figured out how to do it, but can’t bring myself to do it.

  75. says

    Oh my I read all that and felt that pit in my stomach feeling for you. Then I was mad at your sister for freaking you at. But that changed to wanting to tell her great job and how creative. We do tend to shrug off comments that we think oh that doesn’t apply to me or won’t happen to me. She made you aware and will help keep us all safe and more alert in blog world.
    Thanks for sharing

  76. says

    I struggle with this issue all the time…how much to reveal? I recently put my real name on my blog because I read somewhere or heard at a blogging conference that you should do that, but I might take it down. I don’t use my kids’ real names and don’t say where they go to school, but my son blogs for a local newspaper and I link to his stories, so he could be found. And my husband is huge in the social media world, so he reveals where he is all the time (I don’t like that so much). I do say that we live in Atlanta, but it’s a big city and I don’t give identifying neighborhood information. As for photos, I post them of my kids all the time, but as she has gotten older, I am cautious about posting photos of my daughter in a swimsuit. And I always check into Foursquare AFTER I leave a place.

    Geesh…that was scary! I would kill my sister.

  77. says

    I would have been FURIOUS with anyone who did that to me. But I’m still glad it wasn’t a real stalker.

    I’ve been online with my real name, real town, real workplace, etc., for many, many years, and I like it that way. I am okay with that level of disclosure, but I know not everyone is. I guess the bottom line is we all have to make our own boundaries and be as clear and consistent with them as we can.

  78. says

    I hopped over here from H-Mama @ Family Team. I am guilty too. Our children are grown and out of the house, but fear that over time have provided a physical link to my home. That stops NOW! Thank your sister for the scare. It worked. Blessings, SusanD

  79. says

    Wow scary! How do you undo what is already there?My blog name is my last name (i’m screwed) and I have mentioned our city oh too many times (I’m totally screwed) Omg…I’m sleeping with a bat tonight! Great post I’m glad it was your sister but a big eye opener.

  80. PamJ says

    GREAT reminder! I recently made a book from my blog, deleted all the old posts and started over… I didn’t have too much of a following but still wanted to be sure all that info wasn’t totally accessible by all!

  81. says

    Wow. So scary. I would have strangled her I think! (But it was a good point.) It’s always hard trying to think about what to put and what not to put.

  82. says

    wow. your sister is crazy!!! but so helpful in a weird sorta way. will definitely be scanning my blog as I know our name is out there.

  83. says

    What a wake up call. I slip occasionally too. It’s hard to live in such a state of mind 24/7, but alas our society has made it a reality- an inevitability. Thanks for the message. I hear you.

  84. says

    WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! This post gives me SOOOOO much to think about. This is my hubbys one and only concern about my blog. I don’t call my kids by name, and I try not to discuss where I live. But, I guess that if someone really wanted to, they could easily pull together information and find me. Like you said, it would be a lot of leg work but creeps don’t care. Thanks for reminding me about the importance of safety on the inernet.

  85. says

    Wow. That’s scary!! I’m going to have to go back through mine and see if there are any details that might put me out there. I recently took my last name off of my twitter page, but googling it just now, it still shows up. I have given out our state, but not our actual city and try to avoid indicating any other small towns surrounding me. Luckily, we just moved from our own home, in with my brother, so that should throw anyone who is trying to track me off my scent. I’m very careful about my families identity because of the job my brother has. I run the risk of if someone finds out who he is through my blog, placing him in a lot of danger. I even moderate his comments on my blog, not allowing his name to show up, or even let them on at all.

  86. says

    I am upset and relieved all at the same time. Yikes! I’m careful too but not I too post pics of the kids. What’s the line to draw? I don’t know but this is a great illustration of that. Your stomach must have been in knots.

  87. says

    I knew where u live, bc after Baby’s wedding, you sold your shoes on Ebay and posted the link. Ebay kindly gives the location of the item. Don’t worry though, I’m not going to stalk you. You’re too far away anyways :)

    Blogging is great. It let’s us connect with ppl anywhere. Ppl we make friends with, but just like with a group of friends, we get comfortable.

  88. says

    Hi,

    A friend directed me to this post, and I’m so glad she did. Thank you so much for sharing this little dose of reality, and I’m relieved to hear it was just a friendly warning from your sister. I think we can all use one of those from time to time!

  89. says

    Another trend is to add bloggers as your facebook friends, you then easily have their last names. It is something that is very hard for bloggers to avoid…

    But I think, it is more likely the people in ones own neighbourhood they have to beware. They see you each day, they know where your live without going to any trouble etc… you can’t keep hidden from everyone… I think it’s more importart, instead of hiding everything, to make sure kids know about stranger safety and to keep an eye on them whenever reasonable (obviously can’t follow them around at school but there are teachers around then… but you can interview friends parents etc)

  90. says

    OMG, this post really freaked me out! I’m so glad it was just your sister sending this, but she is absolutely right! My husband hates that I have a blog because of this, and he freaks me out too when he mentions stuff like this. So, I just recently deleted all posts I had with pictures of my son. I don’t think I ever posted any information about my city, or anything with my name, but I’ll definitely be double checking.

  91. says

    O…M…G. So I’ve heard about this post but haven’t had a chance to read it until now. WOW. I don’t use my kids’ real names on my blog but I HAVE used our location and I know of at least one picture that had one of their names on it. I’ve always wondered if I was being paranoid by not using names but apparently not.

    What a great post and a great reminder to us all to be diligent in protecting our kids.

  92. says

    Damn, Your sister is freaky, but really smart. I still kind of want to throw up a bit, but I’m glad it was her and not some other nutjob. ;) Thanks for sharing. A great eye opener for all!

  93. says

    This would’ve freaked me out! I have tended to over share at times. As I have gotten to know more and more local bloggers I couldn’t possibly hide my last name and city but I do try to keep my blog as general as possible without being fake. I have a very common first and last name and live in a metro area with millions of people. I figure those things are both in my favor. My kids have unique first names and while I don’t hide them completely (in videos their names have been said) I refer to them by nicknames on my blog.

  94. says

    Very scary and eye opening. I still feel sick to my stomach. I just searched through my blog, deleted all the names and deleted my foursquare account. I’ll be going through EVERYTHING with a fine toothed comb now. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  95. says

    Wow, your sister is a little crazy, eh? I mean in a good way, but yikes. My stomach was in my throat reading your post!
    Thank you for giving me something to think about. I’ve never used my childrens’ names online, or given our locations, or used their faces… but I see many people who do, and, are absolutely fine, and I’ve often felt I was being too overprotective
    It’s a fine line to walk, I think. On one hand, you want people to feel like they “know” you, to increase the “realness” of your blogging, to increase readership, on the other hand, you need to maintain some distance… because really, you don’t “know” the people who read your blog!
    Thank you for the food for thought!

  96. says

    Ohhhh my word.
    Oh my freaking word.
    That would scare the crap out of me!!! Dang, I would’ve done something to my sister if she’d done that….and yeah, I’m always pretty careful of places/locations I take pics of, and names….etc. *sigh*

  97. says

    Oh my gosh…I was freaking out there for awhile, I’m relieved it was your sister, but at the same time, that’s very scary. There are some very scary people out there. I definitely need to fix some things on my blog now!

  98. says

    Whoa, Kathy, as a still relatively new blogger (since January 2010), I’m still cautious. I read your post above, and thought, oh my. I’m still trying to post carefully on my blog.

  99. Eyegirl says

    Unfortunately just cleaning up you blog won’t remove the information from the web as easily as you think. A lesson I had to learn the hard way. I sent you an email explaining why.

  100. says

    Wow, yes that was pretty scary! And it is.

    I honestly can say that when I was reading this, I already kind of had an idea it had to be your sister who sent it to you, because you never want to open any email from someone you don’t know especially an attachment of some sort.

    Yeah, I agree with this for sure, keep safe. I try to not be distinguished about my location but I am a local photographer, as well as a blogger. So I don’t know now what steps to take to ensure my safety as well as my child’s.

    I don’t think my blog is too informative, but I don’t know.

    Thank you for sharing the possibilities of this happenin’ to anyone.

  101. says

    Oh my gosh! As I read this, I ALMOST CRIED! I got so freaked out and scared and nervous. Le sigh. So happy it was only your sister, but what a good awakening. I chose to share my real name and my son’s real name and that we live in NYC, but that’s about it. Oh, and that I’m a grad student at Columbia University. I may have slipped up a few times and shared general neighborhoods that we “hang” in, but I hope that’s it. Thanks for reminding me to clean things up! Whew… so GLAD it was only your sister.

  102. says

    This is a great read. I’m glad I stumbled onto your blog. I have an incarcerated stalker (who I have never met) and it’s incredibly easy to access information. I struggle to be transparent and share with thoughts like this in the back of my mind. As you mentioned, now I protect myself as much as possible.

    I don’t use my location. I don’t use real names and I try not to divulge ages or anything. I also don’t link my facebook to my blog. No thanks. Again though, if they want it, they will find it and you can’t really erase/undo it as Eyegirl mentioned. However, I refuse to live in fear of “them”. So glad for you it was your sis!

  103. says

    There is a fine line between letting your children learn from their experiences and watching out for their safety. In today’s world it is possible for children to go online, get into some trouble through pics or messages, and ruin their life before it gets started. It is the parent’s responsibility to watch out for their children, so sometimes I think it is okay to spy some. I use Mousemail, which keeps my spying anonymous through sending potential threats and messages to me, instead of my child. Therefore I can stay proactive in watching my child without them knowing I am doing it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] A blog post about Internet safety and your kids. I encourage everyone to read this because it clearly outlines what kind of information you may unwittingly share that can come back to haunt you. If you read any of my posts, you will notice that I may mention work colleagues by name, but never mention friends and family by name. That’s on purpose as they are entitled to their “privacy.” And in case you missed my post on how much information is out there about you, you should visit Spokeo and find out. […]