Within the past decade, the use of social networking sites has become more and more popular along all internet users. These sites can provide a user to create an account or profile which can then be linked to other individuals, often friends, family members, coworkers, or just other members. Most sites do not require much information beyond an email address.
Once an individual becomes a member of a social networking site, certain features are made available, such as posting personal information, uploading pictures, and making other content available to the rest of the network.
Aside from personal uses, social networking sites have also been used by schools to make announcements, businesses to attract customers, agencies to recruit potential employees and more. The government not only utilizes them for job recruitment, but also to create public interest in certain programs such as NASA, provide news about the government service, and making pictures available to the public.
While social networking sites have become an indispensable tool to maintaining connections, sharing information, meeting new people, and communicating, they are also new potential risks that are involved. These social networking sites encourage users to share personal information, which sometimes can be misused.
Some examples of the misuse of personal information on social networking sites include:
• Criminals stealing personal identities based off of personal information
• Falsely impersonating other individuals or creating fake identities
• Posting derogatory, insulting, or threatening personal information
• Posting sexually explicit or violent content
• Sexual predators or offenders locating potential victims
In order to prevent any misuse of personal information, it is suggested to take certain protective measures to reduce these risks.
• Avoid making excess personal information available
• Be aware of potential strangers
• Do not believe everything that people say online
• Consider what privacy settings are used and available on the social networking site
• Protect the account with a strong password
• Be cautious with third-party applications
It is especially important to protect children, teens, and young adults from the dangers of social networking sites. Use of these sites has grown dramatically among these groups and it is very easy for a young person to be put in a risky situation.
To help kids and young adults use social networking sites safely:
• Emphasize what information should not be given out such as an address, full name, or phone number.
• Explain that a profile is not private and any information that is not okay for everyone to know should not be on the site
• Take advantage of privacy setting that are available
• Limit or carefully monitor the internet access available. This can be through the computer or a phone.
• Make sure they understand that sex talk is not appropriate and can be dangerous.
More information about safely using social networking sites and the internet can be found through Federal Trade Condition, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, and GetNetWise.