Children And Internet Social Networking
Children And Internet Social Networking
Ward Leber (CEO) gives expert video advice on: How do predators use Internet personal profiles as lures?; Are all social networking sites dangerous?; What should I warn my child about social networking sites? and more...
What are 'social networking sites'?
There's a number of social networking sites and probably one of the most famous ones would be MySpace. There's a lot of different types of social networking sites that will be topic specific, like people who are only interested in certain sports. It might just be people who went to certain colleges or it can be just anyone in the world. And you can have your own community where you get involved with meeting other people that are either like-minded because of music or because of cultural backgrounds or political views, all kinds of different ways. But a social network is basically a huge community of people that is broken down into smaller communities where you find people of like minds or like interests.
What is an 'Internet personal profile'?
An internet personal profile is the information that you put out there for everyone else to see about you. That could include photographs of yourself, it could include all kinds of information about where you go to school, what you like, and what you don't like. It's whatever you want other people to see about you. That's what your profile is.
How do predators use Internet personal profiles as lures?
Well sometimes what predators do is they create fraudulent personal profiles of their own on the internet, and it happens a lot. Kids think they're chatting with somebody else who's another kid, or they think that it's a fan of some particular sports team and what it really is some paedophile that is trying to lure children into liking them. So they'll actually post pictures of kids when they're not a kid. They'll post all kinds of musical interests that they don't have any interest in because they're just trying to get close to kids of a certain age group.
What are the dangers of social networking sites?
The dangers of social networking sites is giving away information to strangers and possibly coming into contact with those people. You can be attacked through one of those methods by putting information out and eventually having someone learn your whereabouts, where you live, where you bank, and where you go to school. If you get enough information about a person, it makes it a lot easier to harm them. So the main harm to social networking sites is what information you make available to other people. So that's the thing you really need to control. If somebody doesn't know who you really are, where you live, or how to get in contact with you; it's not going to be possible for them to physically harm you.
Are all social networking sites dangerous?
I don't think any social networking sites are dangerous. It's not the sites themselves that make it dangerous, it's how you use them. You could say that the reason that a lot of people get hurt online is because they're in a social networking environment. That's not true at all. They could be just as harmed if they were going to school, or if they were on the street, or if they met somebody in a park, or if they came over unannounced. It's not the social networking site. It's like blaming electricity for online predators. It doesn't work that way. It's the way that you use the social networking site that either makes it safe or dangerous. There are basic rules that you can follow in order to make sure that there's no way to get hurt. The world's filled up with lots of really great people. Probably 99% of them are wonderful, caring people, and the other 1% are crazy people that might want to hurt you. That 1% is all over the internet. They're reading your profiles, they're looking at ways to find you, and you've got to be really careful about that.
At what age should a child be allowed to join a social networking site?
There's usually an age range of around 14. I don't think the age range is what's important as opposed to the child's training and their maturity level. It depends on how street smart the kids are. You need to make sure that they really know what kind of information to give out and what not to give out.
What should I warn my child about social networking sites?
What I would warn a child about social networking sites is that people don't always tell you the truth. They'll lie to you about their age, they'll lie to you about their race, they'll lie to you about anything they can lie about because you don't really physically see them, so it's very easy for people to pretend they're somebody else. More than that, I would warn them about giving out any personal information that can identify them. So if you're going to take a photograph of yourself, don't have a photograph of yourself in front of your street address. Make sure you're looking at the background of the photograph, not just what's in the foreground, because a lot of times people will use that information to find you, or they'll know where you hang out. So not giving out personal information, anything that can identify you: where you live, where you go to school. Those are the types of things that I would warn kids never to post on their profiles.