Traditionally, it’s about cleaning up the house from top to bottom. Getting rid of clothes that no longer fit. Clearing out the garage so you can park the car in there again.
But as we live longer and deeper lives online, it’s become something more. I think about all those open online accounts I’ve accumulated over the past 20 years—accounts I never log into anymore but could come back to haunt me should someone hack into them. I also think about all the pictures that have been posted of my kids on Facebook by their friends—some I trust, some I think could use an extra IQ point or two.
Then I think about all the kids returning to school or entering the workforce this fall. Could their online “houses” stand a little spit and polish? Is, perhaps, a summer cleaning in order?
Hey, Martha Stewart has her spring cleaning tips, so here are mine for the whole year round:
1. Google the name of you and your kids. See anything you don’t like? If so, contact those who might be deliberately (or just unwisely) posting content that is damaging your online reputation, and politely ask if they’ll take the offending content down.
2. Do an audit of your own postings. Perhaps you did some tweeting while on that second glass of wine. Or maybe you posted a picture of your son wearing a t-shirt that tells the world where he might be going to school. Sometimes things that seem okay at the time don’t hold up upon closer inspection.
3. Don’t let old accounts languish. Close them to prevent hackers from breaking in and either accessing your personal info or using the account to launch spam, malware or embarrassing updates that look like they’re coming from you. Frequently update active accounts with new and different passwords for each site.
4. Consider all the ways someone might be able to harm you via your computer, mobile phone or the web. Is your security software up to date? Are your devices password protected? Is your home Wi-Fi network encrypted? Are you regularly backing up your data? Are you teaching your kids about Internet safety? If not, you and your family are vulnerable.
5. Finally, securing that first job out of school increasingly requires not only a clean online reputation, but some sort of online reputation. It’s a good idea to build a couple of public communities online, with the expectation that a potential employer may be viewing it one day to get a sense of who they might be hiring.