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It's a fine line between online and offline these days. Us with unique names know that better than others. I've actually cursed my unique last name a many times to the point of where I don't use it online anymore. This has allowed to me to hide on social network sites, and therefore giving me control over my "friends". My brother actually said it's impossible to find my personal email address online. That's ok by me. :)

For the twopointohphobes, you just have to stress the positive and the privacy controls. Maybe show them some sites like LinkedIn, whose focus is on professional networking.

As for the teens, they're smarter than you think. All of the SJCPL gamers I know have their MySpace profiles marked as private. (Maybe they know better because they're gamers?) But if you're ever in a situation where you have a teen with a public profile, just say something like, "Wouldn't it be better if that creepy guy/girl with a crush on you couldn't see your profile?"

Those are my ideas. I hope they work for you.

And I probably would have had the same reaction you did if I had received that call.


I haven't looked at it in detail yet, but I just learned about http://www.digizen.org today. It might help you.


How about a public library initiative that brings kids and their legal guardians together for a session on what social networking is and how to be safe while participating?


Yes! to the commenter about using unique names online. Both my first and my last names are unique, which is why I prefer to use initials or a "handle" (pseudonym) in online communications such as blogs. Even "in real life" (offline), I work in a large public library where many staff don't readily provide our names, out of concern for our own personal privacy. (To me, "concern" is a more accurate word than "fear.") And, yes, I do agree that being female rather than male may indeed make some of us more wary of gaining fame.

RCN, San Francisco Bay Area


As an academic librarian I am intested in teaching my students how to be safe online, especially consdering how much trouble they can get into over the content of their blogs and myspace accounts.


Recently I have found danah boyd's suggestions for "controlling your public appearance (http://tinyurl.com/28fz6t)
to be very thoughtful. I especially like the notion of creating "a public Internet identity."

The questions you raise at the end of your post echo a question I often ask as I read about all the things that libraries are accomplishing with 2.0 tools. That is, where can I find the rock-star of libraries/librarians who are getting teens excited about being media-savvy and as danah boyd suggests are guiding their users in "carefully crafting and cautiously managing [their] public image?"


I work in a public library where each person may choose what their name badge reads. Most staff have their full names listed. Mine simply gives my nickname (Meg), and that's how I have the public address me. I've found that this makes it harder for patrons with confused boundaries to find me in the phone book and call me at home to ask computer or reference questions, and I feel more justified in being rude to them when they do. (Sadly, this has happened multiple times at both libraries I've worked for.)

Likewise, when I go online, I don't expect everyone I meet to understand my boundaries, so I often create a false persona, complete with fake name and an email address that has nothing to do with my real name. That puts me in control of how much information I reveal and to whom. Whether or not people understand why I do this often seems to correlate with how much unwanted attention they've had in the past or their ability to picture such attention.

Finally, depending on who I'm talking to (I don't want to give people ideas on how to harrass), I sometimes do a demonstration of how easy it is to go in to social networking sites and find personal information and talk about how I could abuse it. I also mention how things on the Internet stay around much longer than you anticipate and pull up people's old personal pages using the Internet Archives.


Your concern for your patrons is so inspiring. A very good friend of mine is a librarian and I sometimes worry about the people in his hometown that might have confused boundaries. On the other hand it makes me very proud to see the way people react towards him outside of the library. He is very well respected.

I am not a librarian, but I do work for a non-profit and that puts me in the public eye sometimes. I've never had anything scary or dangerous happen, but it can be a bit nerve-wracking when someone oversteps their bounds, even for a good cause.

You're thoughtfulness and concern for others is the reason why I named you on my blog for a "Nice Matters Award". Thank you for always being an inspiration.


Cat in Ohio

I have had to deal with a few parents like you describe. It's always tricky, and every situation/family is different. I've had parents call, concerned about the pornographic photos theit kids were finding on the web, even though we have a filter. Many people post racy pictures in their profiles on social sites, and frankly there just isn't anything we can do about that! As for advice, there's always the old standby "If you'd like to monitor what your child sees online, I can pull up another chair for you." or something like that (less snotty, of course).

I really admire parents who have the hutzpah to call in about things like that. They really do care, and there is something admirable in that.

Hairstyles Watch

As far as what to tell those midwest mothers who are concerned about there kids - the internet and social networking sites are really just media through which people communicate, much like the telephone. It could also be compared to going to the mall. Some parents don't let their kids go to the mall, some do. Some let them talk to boys/girls on the phone, some don't. It would be like when the telephone came out, and if kids were calling each other all the time and the parents didn't understand the technology...

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