Thursday, November 11, 2010

Social networking sites allow you to express yourself and keep in touch with friends by exchanging messages or comments and posting personal profiles describing who you are and your interests, blogs or online diaries, photos, creative writing, artwork, videos, and music. Instant Messaging (IM) and sharing online profiles are popular forms of social networking.

If practiced safely, there can be many positive aspects of social networking. You can connect with friends and seek like-minded individuals. However, you should understand how posting too much information on your profile and communicating with people you’ve only met online can put you in potential danger.

Some sites and services ask you to post a “profile” with your age, sex, hobbies, and interests. While these profiles help you connect and share common interests, potential exploiters can and do use these profiles to search for victims.
Users may pose as someone else — a different person or a person of a different age — without others knowing. Such users have taken advantage of this and this aspect of social-networking profiles to entice or sexually exploit teens.
You can’t “take back” the online text and images you’ve entered. Once online, “chat” as well as other web postings become public information. Many web sites are “cached” by search engines, and photos and text can be retrieved long after the site has been deleted.
Teens have been punished by their families; denied entry into schools; and even not hired because of dangerous, demeaning, or harmful information found on their personal sites or blogs.

  1. Never post your personal information, such as your cell phone number, address, or the name of your school or school team.
  2. Be aware that information you give out in blogs could also put you at risk of victimization. People looking to harm you could use the information you post to identify you or gain your trust. They can also deceive you by pretending they know you.
  3. Never give out your password to anyone other than your parent or guardian.
  4. Only add people as friends to your site if you know them in person.
  5. Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on a social networking site. Some people may not be who they say they are.
  6. Think before posting your photos. Personal photos should not have revealing information, such as school names or locations. Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to make sure you are not giving out any identifying information without realizing it. The name of a mall, the license plate of your car, signs, or the name of your sports team on your jersey all contain information that can reveal your location. And never post sexually provocative photos of yourself or your friends.
  7. Never respond to harassing or rude comments posted on your profile. Delete any unwanted messages or friends who continuously leave inappropriate comments. Report these comments to the networking site or Internet Service Provider if they violate that site’s terms of service.
  8. Check the privacy settings of the social networking sites that you use:
    1. Set privacy so that people can only be added as your friend if you approve it.
    2. Set privacy so that people can only view your profile if you have approved them as a friend.
  9. Remember that posting information about your friends could put them at risk. Protect your friends by not posting any names, passwords, ages, phone numbers, school names, or locations. Refrain from making or posting plans and activities on your site.
  10. Always remember what you post online is not private. Parents, teachers, coaches, employers, and admissions officers may go online and find out things about you – from your profile, or from someone else’s. Some teens have lost jobs, admission offers, and scholarships because of information posted online.
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