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Social Networking

Social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) are the new craze for teens and adults. They allow people to communicate with friends and others with common interests, allow for information exchanges, and share pictures and video. But social networking sites also contain hidden dangers. Because a person cannot identify who they are speaking with, people tend to share too much personal information (address, age).

Most sites have established security measures to protect an individual’s rights. These sites give the user the control to authorize who has access to a users screen name, which gives the ability to block random personnel from gaining access to another’s page, etc. Having these minimum security measures in place is only about 50 % of security. The other 50 % comes from “You” the user. Below are some simple guidelines that will help you decide from a security perspective, what information is considered appropriate to post on a social networking site, and what is inappropriate.

Research different sites before deciding to join.

All sites have different rules regarding who can view your information, the type of information that can be posted, and the removal of your personal information. By researching different sites you will be able to understand if the site has the qualities you are looking for.

Read the site’s privacy policies.

Read the privacy policy and FAQs, to understand the sites features and privacy controls. If you disagree with any of the policies Do Not Join that site.

Be careful in choosing your screen name.

Don't use anything that can identity you just by looking at it (Amy1977, JakeJonesNY, etc) or pick obscene names (to sound cool), people will not take you seriously. Test your screen name to see if another person can figure it out.  If they can, Change It!  With all the technology today, people do not have to be geniuses to figure out who you are and where you live from your screen name.

Only allow people you trust to have access.

This prevents unwanted people gaining access to your page. If you do not trust someone do not give them access.  Also if someone you trust gives out your information, deny them access and change your screen name immediately.  

Don’t post any personal information (yours, friends, relatives).

Posting this information could be used to identify and locate you at home. This includes your name, address, social security number, picture, and where you hangout, etc.

Be careful in the type of information you post.

Many people can view your page by searching on the internet. If you applied for a job, your page could have a negative effect for a future employer. What you post also affects the people around you (parents, siblings, and friends) by having a constant reminder about an incident.

Once information is posted online, “It Is Permanent” there is no “Delete All” button.

If you delete information from a site, older versions of the information can exist on other people's computers forever.

Don’t flirt or meet with a new online friend in person.

People lie about who they really are online to boost their image and to look for potential victims. If your friend knows the person, ask them to introduce you in a public place (mall, restaurant). If they do not know the person “Do Not Meet Them”.  Also, search online and look for information pertaining to that person before meeting them (you might find some background information on them).  

Learn to trust your instinct if a situation does not feel right.

If someone posts information online that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable tell someone you trust (adult) and report it to the social networking site and police.

Additional information can be found at:

Onguard Online
Internet Keep Safe Coalition
Get Net Wise 
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children