ASK THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Are Social Networking websites safe for my child?
Our children today do not remember a time when computers and the Internet did not exist. In recent years, much attention has been focused on the dangers of using the Internet, including privacy and security issues plus the emergence of online sexual predators. Currently, there is another threat known as online "social networking."
Pre adolescent children, teens and 20-somethings are creating new social circles by communicating online with friends, acquaintances and strangers through various social networking websites. While these types of websites are fun and exciting for many young people, parents should be aware of the potential dangers that exist when their children release personal information on the Internet.
What are social networking websites?
Social networking websites offer a place for Internet users to create a profile and communicate with others. Users can provide as much information about themselves as they want. Many young people post pictures of themselves along with a great deal of personal information in their profile. A few examples of the many social networking websites include:
It is through these "online hangouts" where young people can share music, talk to each other, get dates and "be seen." When you sign-up for one of these websites your profile can be visible to anyone online. Although the websites listed above may differ in the types of services they offer, they all serve as a vehicle to reveal personal information that may not otherwise be easily obtained.
Why would my child want to participate in a social networking website?
It is the "hip" thing to do. Many young people are now socializing online, in addition to, or rather than socializing in traditional outlets like malls, restaurants, or parks. There are many reasons why these social networking websites are so popular:
What concerns should I have about social networking websites?
Parents need to monitor what images their children are presenting online because anything that might be perceived as suggestive or for mature audiences may attract undesirable attention including sexual predators.
What are some safety tips to help me protect my child?
Social networking websites are public forums with little to no expectation of privacy. Tips to help your child interact safely online include:
How can I control access to certain websites?
Here are some important things you can do to reduce the risks to your child when using the Internet:
To report inappropriate activity online, I urge you to contact: the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit at 1-800-385-1044 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; your local police or the National CyberTipline at1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com.