The Dangers of Social Networking Sites

The dangers of social networking sites are real, and too many people underestimate the potential for serious problems. Protect your family from the hazards of social networking by knowing the risks and making sure your family is playing it safe.

Watch What You Share
It's far too easy to give away personal information that can enable people to find you or your family members. Never put your personal address, phone number or full name on a social networking site. People can easily use this information and cross-reference it with network directories to find your exact location and address. Likewise, some people target folks within a certain demographic, so the less they know, the better.

Anyone Can See What You Share
Most people don't realize that unless you've got a restricted profile, anyone can see what you post, not just your friends. Random strangers from across the country or down the street can find your social networking profile and use it to target kids and track them down. Even sharing the name of your child's school can be dangerous, because then a predator already knows one place to find your child.

Beware of Revealing or Racy Posts
Review your family's social networking pages. Do they contain provocative photos? Are there erotic or alluring personal information that might invite a predator to target your family? Make sure personal profiles don't contain inappropriate information that might tempt a predator.

Monitor Friends Using Social Networking Tools
Your kids can never be sure exactly who they're talking to, so monitor their friends on social networks. Is the page consistent with who the person claims to be? Do friends' pages contain provocative or aggressive language? If so, question your kids and get details about who those people claim to be. You may want to remove friends your kids haven't met in person, and use password-protected profiles so strangers can't access them.

An Outlet for Socially Awkward Kids
Besides the dangers of predators finding your kids, social networks can also provide outlets for socially awkward kids. While it's good for these kids to have social interaction, these social networking tools can also serve as a crutch so that your child doesn't feel compelled to seek out social interaction in person.

Beware of the mental toll this can take on kids, and make sure your children are getting plenty of good quality social interaction with other kids in person. Don't let kids use online social networks as a way to avoid real-life interactions, as it gets in the way of developing social skills and can harm current and future relationships.

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