Degree In Sight

Hooked on blogging? You're not alone: The Pew Internet and American Life Project estimates that around 12 million American adults blog, or about 8 percent of all Internet users, and that 35 percent of all Internet users have generated some type of content for the Web. If you're one of them, here are some ways to safeguard your online self:

  • Use privacy protections. Many social networking Web sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook.com and LiveJournal.com offer users the option to restrict access to their accounts to a designated set of contacts.

  • Create an alias. Preserve your privacy by blogging under a different name or anonymously.

  • Google your name. Find out what's available about you online so you're aware of information that might lead to misunderstandings. Case in point: Michael Roberts, PhD, of the University of Kansas, says one of his graduate students learned via Google that a pornography star shared her name. Since then, she has been careful to use her middle initial in her professional communication, he says.

  • Scrutinize your content. If you're job hunting, remove any online content that you wouldn't want your grandmother seeing, advises Susan Terry, director of the University of Washington's Center for Career Services. Likewise, in its safe practices section Facebook.com warns: "Unless you're prepared to attach something in your profile to a resume or scholarship application, don't post it."

  • Keep it to yourself. Stephen Behnke, JD, PhD, director of APA's Ethics Office, advises deleting most personal photographs, family details or information about illegal substance use or involvement in high-risk activities. "There is no hard and fast rule on what information must be kept private," he adds. "What's most important is that you be very aware of how this personal information may affect your work."

-J. Chamberlin