Social media plays a key role in most young people’s lives today.

Many pre-teens and teens partake of online networking to keep in touch with family and friends. When used wisely, these sites can be enjoyable, entertaining and educational. When used haphazardly, however, they can have serious repercussions that can endanger your kid’s life.

Networking online includes such activities as emails, texting, chatting, instant messaging and posting on social sites. Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Blogspot and Flickr are just a few of the many popular social sites young people use to build a network of friends. Through these sites, teens share personal interests, photos, videos and contact info to stay in touch. Although most teen social networking is for entertainment and fun, sharing too many details about their whereabouts or lives can pose a risk to their personal safety. Certain photos and posts can even draw undue attention and cause stalking.

What would Cause Stalking: The Nature of Social Networking

Social networking provides a forum by which friends and acquaintances can socialize online. Through mutual friends, users generally meet others with whom they can establish new friendships. In the course of getting to know others online, some measure of personal information will be shared. However, it’s important to use caution concerning the information you give others, especially when communicating with people for the first time.

Many teens don’t see the danger of revealing contact data online. As there’s no face-to-face meeting with those you’re “socializing” with, it’s difficult for young people to see the risk of their personal info falling into the wrong hands. Some sites provide privacy/security tools to give users greater control over who has access to their accounts. However, many young people don’t bother to use them. This leaves their profile and posts open to be seen and read by hundreds of others who utilize the same social site.

What would Cause Stalking: The Risk of Networking Online

Posting personal info online where random users can see it can have serious consequences. Although most people using social sites are not out to cause you harm, there are malicious people in the world with that intent. The Internet attracts both good people and bad. Easy access to your name, age, email, home address, workplace, habits and personal routine can entice criminals to seek you out. Such carelessness in protecting your online identity can actually cause stalking as you make it easy for offline stalkers and cyber-stalkers

What would Cause Stalking: to do their “job.”

Stalkers often target pre-teens and teens as they are more susceptible to their pretences. They may pose as young people themselves in order to befriend teens, develop a relationship and over time, try to set up a personal meeting. Teaching young people Internet safety from the very start can help protect them from malicious people who would do them harm.

Parent’s Responsibility

When it comes to social networking, parents should provide guidelines for their kids’ online activities. This is especially important in pre-teens and younger teenage. Internet tracking software and tools are available to keep parents informed of the sites their kids are visiting. As a parent, you should also provide guidance regarding appropriate and inappropriate content to protect your kids from making foolish mistakes that can cause problems later on. With parental input and supervision, your kids can learn to use the Net safely and responsibly.

The following are a few Internet safety guidelines parents can share with their social networking kids:

  • Use social site settings to control who has access to your posts
  • Block suspicious individuals or those who you feel uncomfortable receiving messages from
  • Use wisdom in the personal info you post online or make your profile private to protect your information.
  • Check your friends’ posts to ensure there’s no breach in your online security
  • Refrain from posting material that is negative, offensive and abusive as it can be used against you later on
  • Create a profile that promotes your character and personality in a good light
  • When posting photos, stick with small sizes as it makes it more difficult for stalkers or other malicious people to zoom in on your features
  • Avoid tagging photos and discourage others from tagging you like the links to others’ profiles can compromise their privacy.
  • User different user names for different social sites to protect yourself from stalkers
  • Choose “difficult” passwords that cannot easily be deciphered by those on the outside

As parents, it’s to your advantage to learn as much as you can about the social sites your kids use. Many of these sites provide security measures to enhance the safety and protection of their users. By making sure your kids are well informed about social networking, they can avoid foolish mistakes that can cause stalking and be better prepared to deal with online stalkers if the need arises.