A native of the Pacific Northwest, Linda Carlson is a graduate of Washington State University’s journalism program and the Harvard Business School and has spent her career in marketing and the media. Her first book, The Publicity and Promotion Handbook: A Guide for Small Business (John Wiley, 1982), provided step-by-step how-to’s for businesses and nonprofits that wanted to handle marketing communications in-house. Her work with architectural firm promotion resulted in a case study published by the Harvard Business School (1980) and then in Services Marketing (Prentice Hall, 1984). She currently writes on book marketing topics for the Independent Book Publishers Association and consults to Seattle-area publishers.
She contributed to The New Writer's Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career (Scarletta Press) and Calling All Authors: How to Publish with Your Eyes Wide Open (Nightengale Press), both published in 2007. Recent publications include Internet Safety and Your Family (Parenting Press 2008) and a Dummies guide to digital book printing (edited for the Book Industry Study Group and John Wiley, 2009).
Carlson began serving as the Harvard Business School’s Seattle-area career adviser in the mid-1980s, a volunteer position that led to nine job-search guides published between 1990 and 1998, weekly Q & A newspaper columns and frequent presentations on career topics.
Her background in forest products resulted in Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest (University of Washington Press, 2003). A finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the basis for Carlson’s presentations through the Humanities Washington speakers bureau, it has been quoted in New York Times, USA Today and International Herald Tribune articles regarding company towns and timber communities. Company Towns was also the basis for Carlson's interview by the London Daily Telegraph. As an avocation, Carlson creates note cards which are sold in Seattle gift shops.
Empowered Mommies (EM): Ms Carlson, you have such a fascinating background working as a marketing consultant, speaker and having authored 12 books in a wide array of topics. What motivated you to focus on the issue of internet safety in your latest book, “Internet Safety and Your Family”?
Linda Carlson (LC): I spent about half of my work week at Parenting Press, where I handle the marketing for several books, including some very popular books on preventing child sexual abuse. We had done a brochure on Internet safety back in the days when you could say, "Keep the computer in a busy room of the house, where you'll always know what's going on." But today each member of the family may have his or her own computer, and with wi-fi, who knows where people are logging on? So I suggested a book about Internet safety, and in the time I researched the topic, I created a Facebook account for myself and monitored what my children, then in high school, and their friends were doing. I was astounded at what information was available! What especially horrified me is how much of that information was being made available by adults---by parents with their blogs about their kids, with school web sites, with sports team web sites and blogs, even with church web sites. Combine that with whitepages.com and Google Maps, and it's easy to zoom in on where you live or work.
EM: Many of our readers at Empowered Mommies have small children. Is Internet safety an issue for parents of very young children? How?
LC: Yes! It's an issue for any adult, parent or not, because he or she could be a victim---of a predator, of phishing, of spoofing. Just recently I read about how some identity thieves are using the information on social networking sites to get enough ID to then find people's social security numbers...and you know it's all downhill from there! The special concern I have for parents of very young children is that they, and their relatives and friends, so often create blogs and pages such as Facebook that are open to the entire world---or at least, to friends of their friends. This means that when people bill and coo over cute little Ashley and Ryan, they take and post photos of everyone, often with everyone's names and/or identifying information. For example, "Grandma Susie Spreckles holding Ryan at Crater Lake" or "Four generations of the Lenoir family, at the grandparents' house on Lake Roosevelt." Just guess how long it would take some determined person to find out where the Lenoirs live on Lake Roosevelt! That person could be stalking a family member, or seeking an identity to steal, or who knows what. Now, you may be thinking that no one is going to harm the baby, but remember that what's on the Internet often stays there for forever, so 10 years from now, when Ashley's in middle school, some predator might see this information and figure out how to stalk her.
EM: In your book you discuss the concepts of phishing, spoofing, spam, filters, blogs, gaming, social networking, and online worlds. In which of these do you see the most risk?
LC: For families, I think phishing and spoofing are the worst, and spoofing usually involves social networking in some way. To impersonate someone, you have to have some information about them, and often that comes from Facebook, Myspace or even Classmates.com. We can all learn how to avoid phishing, but with spoofing we have no control. I've had people impersonate me, and send out horrible, horrible e-mails to people I don't know. But you can imagine the hate mail I get in response! Think about how that can happen to one of us with our personal e-mail addresses, or to one of our children.
EM: You also mention making the Internet a family activity. How would you recommend that we do that?
LC: There are absolutely fabulous web sites, many of which I've discussed in Parenting Press's monthly, News for Parents, which is available at www.parentingpress.com/ezine.html. For example, you can show your kids wonderful vintage maps of your community through sites like the Secretary of State of the State of Washington, and the famous Dust Bowl photos at the Library of Congress site. There are web sites that let you listen to animal sounds, and do virtual tours of museums, and print out images from your kids' favorite books. I showed my kids the Norwegian census from the 1800s, and then the early 1900s census that shows my grandparents in this country.
EM: Many of us have professional websites, a LinkedIn profile, Face book Account, perhaps even a blog¬how do you recommend parents become savvy in protecting personal information? Specific Tips?
LC: Say only what needs to be said. My Facebook page says I'm married, but doesn't have my husband's name or the names of my children. I also am very careful about what I post---I would never, ever, ever post any relative or friend's entire name. On LinkedIn, there's no reason to have any personal information. On any of these sites, you can say which part of the country you live in, without providing the name of the city and certainly not your street address. I've had a post office box as my business and financial address for years, and I'd certainly recommend that to anyone with a business. I'd also suggest that everyone consider having their address removed from the telephone book. Something all of us should do at least twice a year is Google ourselves to see what shows up. It is not uncommon to find your business expertise or books credited to someone with a similar name or the reverse...and there are some other Linda Carlsons that I absolutely do not want to be confused with!
EM: If you had to look forward a decade, how do you hope your book will have helped families stay safer in our ever increasingly interconnected digital world?
LC: I hope it'll wake them up to what they're posting! I hope they'll remember that anything you post can be seen by millions of people, and can be seen forever if you're not careful about your privacy settings. But don't hesitate to join sites such as Classmates.com and Facebook, because they are fabulous for finding old friends. I'm working on class reunions again this year, and it's so satisfying to see how many people I've been able to track down.
EM: Thank you Linda for your time!
LC: Thank you Ivanna for having me, it's been a pleasure.