MTV’s Catfish: 8 ways to avoid getting “Catfished” – Keeping Kids Safe Online

My daughter and I have very candid conversations about Online Safety, but my husband and I conducted an experiment this week.  We decided to watch MTV’s new reality show “Catfish” with our daughter to see her reaction.   After the show she educated us as if she were an online safety expert, suffice it to say our experiment worked!  I am not endorsing the show, but it was an eye opener and an excellent catalyst for family conversation around Internet Safety.

Catfish is a reality show about the truth and lies of online dating, based on the real life experiences of NYC-Photographer Nev Schulman.  Nev met and fell in love with a young lady online, only to find that  everything she told him was a lie.  A “Catfish” is a person who creates fake profiles online and pretends to be someone they are not by using someone else’s pictures and information.  Catfish use social media sites, usually with the intention of getting other people or a person to fall in love with them.  The “fake” girlfriend incident involving Manti T’eo has brought the issue with online imposters to the forefront.

Although Online dating is meant for adults, unfortunately some teens have decided that they want to find friends and love interests through the Internet.  Below are practical tips for teens and adults to avoid being a victim of a “Catfish.”

  • Analyze Facebook and other Social Media Profiles:  If a person’s profile has fewer than 100 friends and they didn’t join “yesterday,” be cautious.  Other things to consider:  Do they have friends who live in the same state or are most of their friends from other parts of the county? Usually a person will have friends from their own community.  Are any of their photo’s tagged? If not this could mean that the person has taken the photos from someone else’s page or profile.
  • Use Google Images to check out the validity of their profile photo.   Save a photo of the person to your desktop and open up google images.  Drag the photo from your desktop and drop it into the search field. Google Image Search will check where the image is present on the Internet including Social Media sites.   If you see the same photo with different names attached to it, the person is probably a fake.  Try it out with your own photo!
  • Request for sexy or nude photos.  You don’t want to send nude photos of yourself to people you DO know let alone a stranger.  If a someone you don’t know in “real life’ asks you for inappropriate photos, beware this could be a set-up to share your images online.
  • No Access to a Webcam/Skype – In this day and age if a person does not have access to a webcam they may be hiding something.
  • Do not share personal information – If someone is looking to scam you and they have access to your personal information, you have just made it easier to target you.  Set up privacy settings on all of your profiles and conduct an Internet search on your name to see what information shows up.
  • Channel your inner Columbo, Matlock or Perry Mason.  Do you homework and research the online acquaintance. Conduct an Internet search on their name, listen for contradictions in their story, and ask questions.
  • Question declarations of love and affection.  If you have never met this person in “real life” and they begin to declare their love for you or act as if the can’t live without you, be cautious
  • Act as if the person is a stranger, because they are….  If a stranger walked up to your door and said let me in, you would probably call the police.  Don’t let the person in so easily and proceed with caution.
Marlin Page is a Speaker and Technology Lifestyle Strategist.  As a global speaker, former Coder and Chief Information Officer Marlin travels the world speaking about Online Safety, S.TE.M. and Technology Strategies.  Marlin is also a global speaker and partner for Microsoft’s DigiGirlz Program.





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One Response to MTV’s Catfish: 8 ways to avoid getting “Catfished” – Keeping Kids Safe Online

  1. Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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