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Social networking & staying safe
Social Networking areas are basically websites with services that can help connect old and new friends using a load of tools like blogs, profiles, internal email systems, photos galleries and video galleries. Well known sites include Bebo, Myspace, Friendster, Ninebean and LiveJournal and have become an significant part of todays culture.
Stay in Control:
There are a number of things to think about when using social networking sites:
Be careful what information you give out...
Be careful what information you give out on your profile, blog and through the images you post. Remember that you don’t know who your friend’s friends are… or your friend’s friends’ friends, basically your extended network! And you don’t know what they’ll do with your picture or your phone number if you inadvertently give it out. Use a nickname or your initials on your profile – you don’t want just anyone knowing your name.
Think through who you want to chat to...
Think through who you want to chat to, and how many of your personal thoughts you want anyone to view. Sometimes, it can seem a good idea to share what you got up to with your boyfriend last night, or the argument you had with your best mate; but as you’re writing – remember that information could be public forever! Test yourself by asking “would I want my teacher/Mum/Dad/ stranger on the train to see this?!” If the answer’s no… don’t post it!
Be careful who you agree to accept...
Be careful who you agree to accept into your forums / private chat areas. Unfortunately because there are so many young people using these sites – adults with bad intentions will sometimes use them to make contact with children too; so you’re safer to only chat to people you know in the real world. Even if you know someone… who knows someone… who knows a person – unless you do; it’s better to keep it that way! Always better to be sfae than sorry.......
Know where to go for help...
If you feel anyone is being weird with you or your friends; or if someone is bullying you on one of these sites – contact the administrator of the site. If it’s really serious – like you think the person contacting you may be an adult who wants to abuse you or your mates, report on this site using the reporting button.
Things to think through:
Only upload pictures that you’d be happy for your mum to see – anything too sexy to be passed round the dinner table should NOT make it on to the web, as it could encourage sex-pests to contact you
Don’t post your phone number or email address on your homepage. Think about it – why would anyone actually need this info when they can message you privately via the internal system?
Don’t post pictures of you or your mates wearing school uniform – if dodgy people see your school badge, they can work out where you are and come and find you
Adjust your account settings so only approved friends can instant message you. This won’t ruin your social life – new people can still send you friend requests and message you, they just won’t be able to pester you via IM
Tick the “no pic forwarding” option on your Myspace settings page – this will stop people sending pictures from your page around the world without your consent.
Don’t give too much away in a blog. Yes, tell the world that you are going to a party on Saturday night. But don’t post info about where it is. Real friends can give you a call or drop you a text to get details, and strangers shouldn’t be able to see this kind of information.
About the Author: Robert writes for a number of blogs, forums and magazines and is a keen participant on Ninebean. Visit an alternative social community