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Tips to help keep your kids and teens safe online - Part 2

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The internet can be a media story waiting to happen for many kids and teens.

And parents should take this seriously! Don't think it can't happen to your kid!

Why do kids use one of the most popular social-networking sites?

When it comes to social networking sites, there are benefits and risks. Social networking sites are community based web sites that give teens access to connect with others through profiles.

Social networking sites offer profiles, pictures, email, instant messaging, chat rooms and blogging all on one site. The most popular social networking sites are MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and Xanga.

Social Networking Positives

If used safely, social networking sites lets teens keep in touch with their friends and helps them express themselves and enhance creativity, communication and writing skills.

Social Networking Negatives

By posting real names, home addresses, phone numbers, the names of their parents, schools, date of birth, pictures of themselves, and other relevant information, teens can be at great risk.

Features of social networking sites include:

· Design choice, creative name, and unique URL for a page.

· Posting pictures and videos.

· Listing name, age and address

· Music options to play when a profile is accessed.

· Listing interests and favorite things.

· Posting bulletins to friends.

· Joining groups to connect with like-minded users.

· Blogging their daily activities, feelings, and moods.

· Searching for friends in various ways

· Shows when teens are online

· Shows when teens last accessed the site

· Filling out surveys and polls

Privacy settings are included on most social networking sites which limits access to a user’s profile. Teens are able to set their profiles to private and keep personal information such as photos and blogs hidden.

Blogs and online journals are ways for teens to express themselves. Some teens write about their insecurities; innermost thoughts; and feelings about their families, friends, and teachers.

Posting these “diaries” can make teens potential targets for predators. Online predators often use a teen’s innermost thoughts to bond with them, coaxing them into conversations and eventually a dangerous meeting.

Posting Photos on Web sites and Blogs

Many teens post individual or group photos that could identify them such as in front of a school, wearing sports team jerseys. This makes it easy for predators to find them.

Unfortunately, a great number of teens very often post inappropriate or sexually explicit photos to get attention. Once a photo is posted online, anyone can have access to it and use it to exploit them. Teens should never post photos they wouldn’t want posted around their schools for everyone to see.

The More Friends, The More Popular

The more friends a teen has then the more popular they are! This can cause them to add other friends who they might not know allowing strangers full access to their profiles.

There have been times when kids and teens gave out so much information that predators pretended to be their friends.

To help prevent giving profile access to people, teens should only add people they know in real life to their friends lists. The comments section should also be monitored to make sure that it is free of posts containing details about location, future plans, and other revealing information that could give a predator way to much information on where to find your kid or teen.

Teens should take the same precautions when communicating in like-minded “groups” or allow their photos to be “ranked.” Any user — not just friends — can view, comment on, and contact the person who submitted the image. Teens need to know not to respond or to deny a friend request from someone they don’t know in person.

While MySpace.com and other sites like this allow people to be creative and share information with others, it is a site for adults. However this site is not appropriate for kids and teens.

MySpace.com prohibits anyone under 14 years of age from using their website. Yet, they can’t prevent kids from lying about their age. To address this, they have developed special software to review the profiles of their members, to try and find anyone under age. This is based on information the members post about themselves and does help spot some underage members.

While MySpace.com and other sites are working to keep your children from using their sites, parents have to do work as well. Talk to your kids. Let them know that it is very dangerous to post personal information such as photos, real names, addresses, cell and phone numbers, schools they attend, what is located near your house, descriptions of themselves, etc.

If you want to know if your children have profiles on these sites --- ask them. If you think they are not telling the truth, search these sites using their email address. If you see your child’s profile, read it. If there is any personal information or anything inappropriate contact these sites parental help staff. Your child will think you’re interfering and being too strict, but it’s your job to protect them at all costs.

Ask your child what prompted them to create a profile. What you learn can be a great education into what’s going on with them. Explain to them that when kids lie about their age on these sites that they could be in great danger. Not everyone is who they say they are. Pedophiles pose as younger people and can try to lure them into a meeting.

If your child is posting inappropriate or provocative comments online … it’s your turn to get serious. Sit down and talk immediately. Tell them the stories about older men who lie on the internet to lure young girls and boys into danger. Many kids who got caught up in this aren’t here to tell their stories --- because they’re dead. Some were murdered, some were sexually molested.

Get their usernames and passwords. This is not to spy on them and see what they're doing. It's for you to give to the police if anything happens to them so the records can be traced to their abductor or predator.

The risks our children take are very real!

We don’t recommend that you spy on your kids but we do recommend that you purchase software that records what your kids say and post online.

Stalkers can find your kids online and through mobile apps - Part 1

Click here for more of Ross’ articles

Twitter me at http://twitter.com/ProtectChildren

Twitter me at https://twiter.com/STOMPOutBullyng

Ross Ellis is also the Examiner for:

National Parenting Examiner
NY Real Estate

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