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What You Need to Know About Social Networking Websites

Parents:  What You Need to Know About Social Networking Websites

Are you the parent of a teenager?  If you are, there is a good chance that your child is interested in using social networking websites, like MySpace, if they don’t already.  Although these websites are a nice way to stay in contact with friends, especially those who may have moved away, they can also be dangerous.  That is why, as a parent, you should learn as much as you can about popular social networking websites.

It is first important to know that social networking websites, especially MySpace, are popular.  Even if you think that your teenager isn’t using them, they may be.  This is because most high school and junior high school students think that social networking websites, like MySpace, are “cool.”  In fact, MySpace and other similar websites are hot topics that are discussed in many schools across the country.

As popular as social networking websites are, it is important to also know that they can be dangerous.  This doesn’t, however, mean that you automatically have to ban your child from using them.  As the parent, you have the right to control which websites your child visits in your home and on your computer, but knowledge is key.  If your child knows the dangers that lurk on social networking websites, they are better able to protect themselves and use social networking websites as they were meant to be used, to easily and safely communicate with friends.

What you also need to know about social networking websites is that just about anyone can read what your child posts online.  That is why children, typically those under the age of 18, should have their profiles set to private.  This way, only those who are accepted as their friends can see what they have posted.  Otherwise, your teenager daughter may innocently post a picture from last summer’s pool party and a child predator could get the wrong impression or want to target your daughter just because of that otherwise innocent photo they were able to view.

Speaking of internet predators, they have been known to target social networking websites.  What is so concerning about this is that many teens and their parents don’t realize that they are dealing with an internet predator until it becomes too late.  Just because an internet user has a profile and pictures that make them look like a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn’t mean that they are the same age as your child.  In fact, they could even be a registered sex offender.

As it was previously stated, pictures or videos that a child posts on their MySpace page or the page of another social networking profile can be viewed and misinterpreted by others.  There are also other dangers associated with posting personal pictures and videos.  As cool as your teenager may think it is to have a picture or video of them doing a prank or drinking, it could land them into a lot of trouble.  Many schools and police departments are starting to use MySpace and other social networking websites to their advantage. Your teen may find themselves in trouble with the law, suspended from school, or suspended from their extra curricular activities.

It is also important to know that some social networking websites make it easy for your child’s real identity to be discovered.  This could lead to someone showing up at your door, stalking your child, sending them letters, or even calling your home.  For example, MySpace posts your location online, which often includes your city and state.  There is also a spot where your child can enter in what school they attend.  Combine this with a picture and your teen can easily become a target.

As previously stated, social networking websites can be dangerous, but that danger decreases when your child is aware of it.  Ways that you can protect your child involve having them set all social networking profiles to private. Establish rules about accepting new online friends.  You will also want to view your child’s profile from time to time.  Are any personal pictures or videos posted?  If so, you may want to have your child remove them. Also, make sure that no personal information, including full name, address, phone number, and school name, is divulged.

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