Most adults did not grow up with the Internet and social networking sites, so the technological world teens live in can be confusing and scary. Today, teens spend more time with the latest technology than they do face-to-face communication. If they are not texting with friends, they are on the Internet, usually Facebook. It is rare to find a teen that does not have a Facebook account and who does not use it on a daily basis. Now that they will be going back to school, it would seem that they spend less time on social networking sites, but the fact-of-the-matter is, they will, typically, spend more, not less, time on these sites. They exchange school events, homework assignments, or use it as “down-time” from their studies.
For many kids and teens, the whole idea of having a profile on a social networking site is to keep in touch with friends. They create their profile and enable others to be their friend. Then, they can add personal information to their profile, including home address, phone numbers, email, and pictures. They can also post her likes, dislikes, and interests, and post comments on their own profile or that of others. The main problem is that unless certain privacy settings are activated, most networking sites allow anyone to view a users’ profile. Often, kids make it a goal to have as many friends as possible, whether or not they know them. When they start connecting to friends of friends, it is like dominoes – it keeps going and going. This may sound like fun and games to the kids, but online networking can pose many dangers that children don’t recognize. According to i-safe.org, more than half of high school students surveyed have given out personal information to someone they have met only online.
If privacy settings are not activated to restrict who can view your child’s profile, the Internet connects your child to the whole world, and posting an address or phone number increases the risk of dangerous situations. In the i-safe.org survey, 20% of high school students and 19% of middle school students admitted to meeting face-to-face with someone they knew only from the Internet. So what can be done to keep your kids safe online?
Restricting your child from using any social networking site is probably going to be difficult to control. Computers are available almost everywhere now, so an alternative approach would be to educate your child about the potential risks these sites pose, and about how to stay safe when using them. Here are some tips that everyone, especially teens, should follow while using Facebook.
· Use the privacy settings. Users can “hide” a profile, set up a limited profile, or block someone completely.
· Only make your profile viewable to your friends, not everyone in your network.
· Don’t post your last name; just use your last initial.
· Do not post anything inappropriate on your own profile or on someone else’s profile. Even if you use the privacy settings, it does not mean all of your friends do.
· Delete inappropriate comments or wall posts on your profile.
· Only accept or add people as friends that you know in person. Not everyone is the person they portray themselves as online.
· Do not post your address, phone number or school schedule on your profile.
· Use the "Block" Feature to Stop Abusive Behavior.
· Don’t give out your username or password to anyone.
The bottom line is that NOTHING IS PRIVATE online, especially social networking sites. The instant something is posted Facebook (or any other site), you have lost control and ownership of that content. Remember, we are talking about the World Wide Web. You may not be able to stop your child from using these sites, but by educating, you will increase the chances of safety.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.