Is Web-based Social Networking Safe?
By G. Douglas Arnold
Perhaps you have heard some of the recent stories about minors who have been victimized on internet social networking sites. Some of these sites, like MySpace and Yahoo 360, have become more popular than the mall or the movies as a gathering place for teens. Many concerns are now being raised as to whether these sites are a safe way for our kids to spend their time.
So do social networking sites pose a real threat to the young people who use them? Well, for those not aware of the risks, they can. Even though some statistics claim that only about 1 in 40 occurrences of sexual predation take place on the internet, the web can potentially be a dangerous place for kids.
Parents should not give their children free and unsupervised rein on social networking sites any more than they should pitch the car keys to their newly licensed 15 year old and tell them to go have a good time. In either case, a determination needs to be made as to whether your child is responsible enough to engage in the activity without endangering themselves. Also, a few well thought out ground rules are in order. Kids need to be made aware of the potential dangers of online socialization and then need to be monitored to make sure they are heeding the guidelines set out for them.
Ultimately, whether a teen is allowed on a website like MySpace is a decision which every parent should make consciously and proactively based on an awareness of the risks involved. If care and common sense are exercised, online socialization can be a fun way for teens to interact with their friends, but just as safety-conscious parents are more reluctant than past generations to let their kids go out into the real world unsupervised, that same concern needs to be applied to the Internet.
A few social networking dos and don’ts:
Dos (for parents) -
- Do try to be familiar with who your kids are “hanging out” with online.
- Do show an interest in what your teen does online and actively monitor them.
- Do get your child to show you their MySpace/360/etc. site if they have one.
- Do explain that everyone can see the information they put on the internet; not just their friends.
Don’ts (for kids) -
- Don’t put personal information (address, phone #, etc.) anywhere on the internet.
- Don’t assume that just because you’ve met someone online that you know them; imposters are everywhere on the net.
- Don’t participate in online bullying.
- Don’t forget to use common sense when interacting with other people online and never trust strangers. The internet can be a dangerous place.
For more tips on how to keep kids safe online go to: