They love it! And oftentimes it seems that they can’t live without it. You may feel like your child is much more Internet savvy than you are, and in fact, that may be true! But as savvy as your teen may be, he or she may not be aware of the dangers of online networking and what precautions need to be taken to stay safe. It is time to talk to your teen about social networking safety.
The National Crime Prevention Council’s website has valuable information to assist parents in educating their teens and tweens about social network safety.
The three major dangers of using social networking websites are:
- Oversharing information. When creating a profile page, most websites will ask for personal information such as home addresses, birthdays, and phone numbers. Giving this information can be very dangerous and the information will be made public to anyone who visits a user’s profile page, if privacy settings are not set correctly.
- Location-based services. Location-based services can be one of the most dangerous features provided by social networking sites. It exposes the profile user’s whereabouts. The service also has a feature that allows users to tag who they are with at any given time. While it can be fun to share your location with friends and family, it can also increase your vulnerability, potentially opening you up to being robbed, sexually assaulted, or worse. Predators can use this tool to track your movements and determine when you are alone or when you are not at home.
- Posting photos. Posting inappropriate photos that may be deemed as fun, cute, or sexy can end up where one least expects it. Photo tampering is a big threat when it comes to posting photos online. The use of photo editing tools allows people to manipulate online images in any way they choose, whether it’s used for good or bad purposes. While posting pictures and sharing them with friends can be fun, it can also be risky.
Teaching Your Teen Three Simple Steps to Increase Safety
- Don’t give optional information. When creating a profile, you do not need to enter all of the information that is requested. The set-up page usually requires you to fill out basic information, such as your name and email. Everything else is optional. Do not feel obligated to put your address and telephone number.
- Third level of privacy. There are three levels of privacy settings to choose from for your profile. There is “open to everyone,” “open to friends of friends” and “friends only.” The best setting,“friends only,” is the strictest level of security; it only allows people that you have accepted as a friend to view information about you.
- Accept only people you know. Doing this can protect you from spammers, pedophiles, and other people who use social networking sites to commit crimes.
When discussing social networking safety with your teen, encourage him or her to always use discretion when posting any type of photo, location status, or message. Tell your teen to ask these three questions before posting to the world:
“Think Before You Post”
- Should I share this? Will the information I share put me or someone else in danger?
- Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with?
- Am I selecting friends online that I can trust, and can I trust their friends who have access?
Having a discussion with your teen about social networking sites can ease some anxiety about your child’s safety. Social networking sites help us stay connected to family and friends. However, it’s important to make sure your child knows how to be safe while online. Encourage them to enjoy the sites but to be safe at all times.
Article by Sue Jones, Executive Director of FOCUS.
For more information on social networking safety visit www.ncpc.org