| Recent incidents involving Internet crimes against
children have been prominent in the media. In some incidents, the
crimes have involved suspects and victims who met each other on social
networking or blogging sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Xanga, and
Blogs and social networking sites have recently exploded in popularity.
The number of visitors to MySpace went from 4.9 million in 20051
to currently over 67 million.2 Like most new technological
developments, this brings both positive and negative implications.
The majority of the activity on these sites is legal and can be
positive. Young people who are curious connect with friends and
seek like-minded individuals. However, many teens are not aware
they are putting themselves in danger by giving out too much personal
information and communicating with people they’ve only met online.
1 Janet Kornblum. “Teens hang out at MySpace.” USA
Today. January 8, 2006, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2006-01-08-myspace-teens_x.htm?csp=34.
2 April 3, 2006, http://www.myspace.com.
The unprecedented amount of personal information available on
blogs and social networking sites makes them a perfect place for
people who would harm children to identify their victims and gain
their trust. This trust can be used to lure teens into a false sense
of security, making them vulnerable to “grooming” and enticement
to meet in person, which could have very serious consequences.
Other dangers include exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying,
Teens are often not aware that their words — which may have been
intended for a small audience — sometimes find their way to a larger
one, especially if they are controversial. Some students who have
posted threatening words against their school or classmates have
attracted the attention of law enforcement, while those who have
posted inappropriate comments about school personnel have also been
disciplined. Some universities and employers are even reviewing
online postings when considering potential candidates.
- Never post your personal information, such as cell phone number,
address, or the name of your school, or school team.
- Be aware that information you give out in blogs could also put
you at risk of victimization. People looking to harm you could
use the information you post to gain your trust. They can also
deceive you by pretending they know you.
- Never give out your password to anyone other than your parent
- Only add people as friends to your site if you know them in
- Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on a social
networking site. Some people may not be who they say they are.
- Think before posting your photos. Personal photos should not
have revealing information, such as school names or locations.
Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to make sure you are not
giving out any identifying information without realizing it. The
name of a mall, the license plate of your car, signs, or the name
of your sports team on your jersey or clothing all contain information
that can give your location away.
- Never respond to harassing or rude comments posted on your profile.
Delete any unwanted messages or friends who continuously leave
inappropriate comments. Report these comments to the networking
site if they violate that site’s terms of service.
- Check the privacy settings of the social networking sites that
- Set it so that people can only be added as your friend if
you approve it.
- Set it so that people can only view your profile if you have
approved them as a friend.
- Remember that posting information about your friends could put
them at risk. Protect your friends by not posting any names, passwords,
ages, phone numbers, school names, or locations. Refrain from
making or posting plans and activities on your site.
- Consider going through your blog and profile and removing information
that could put you at risk. Remember, anyone has access to your
blog and profile, not just people you know.