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Internet Safety Tips

Internet Social Networking Sites

 

Recent disturbing 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 via Internet social networking sites. Social networking sites are places on the Internet were people can meet one another, communicate and interact.

 

Social networking and communication are normal parts of the human experience. The Internet has become an important venue for people to network, communicate and interact. Young people are naturally curious about themselves, about others, and about the world and the sites permit them to reach out to others from around the globe, sometimes with tragic results.

 

There are many social networking sites. Some of them are listed below:

  • Myspace.com
  • Facebook.com
  • Friendster.com
  • Cozydating.com
  • Interracialsingles.net
  • Livejournal.com
  • Friendsfusion.com
  • Intellectconnect.com
  • Prisonpenpals.com
  • Zogo.com (for cell phone networking)

 

Why are the social networking sites popular?

Most of the social networking sites are free and supported by advertisers who hope users will buy products or services advertised on the sites. Young people who are curious and seeking relationships and new experiences visit the sites to find others.

 

How do the sites work?

Any computer with Internet access can be used to permit someone to join a site. Some sites require only that the registrant provide an email address and often there is no verification process to check the truthfulness of any of the information that a registrant provides. Most sites require that users abide by conditions and terms of use meant to thwart improper conduct but enforcement is often lax. Once a registrant becomes a member he or she can post personal information, images or other information depending upon the features available at the site. Unless a user chooses privacy options all the information posted may be visible to all other users of a site.

 

What are the dangers?

Those who misuse the sites may do so in many ways including:

  • Luring / enticement – Internet sexual predators and known sex offenders have used social networking sites to locate and lure victims.
  • Identity theft – Criminals steal the identities of those who post personal information.
  • Cyberbullying / harassment – Agitators post derogatory, hurtful or threatening information about others.
  • Stalking – Stalkers can use personal information posted to the sites to locate and pursue victims.
  • Fraud schemes – Criminals who wish to defraud others of money or property can  locate victims, gain their trust and then take advantage of that trust for criminal purposes.
  • Inappropriate sexual content – Some users post sexually explicit information that is inappropriate for young computer users.

 

Prevention

What can you do to protect yourself from those who misuse social networking sites?

 

Do’s and Don’ts

 

Don’t -

·        post personal images

·        post your true full name

·        post your true age or date of birth

·        post your true home or business address

·        post your school name or the grade that you are in

·        post your calendar of upcoming events or information about your future whereabouts

 

Do -

·        discuss Internet risks with your child

·        enter into a safe-computing contract with your child

·        enable computer Internet filtering features if they are available from your Internet service

·        install monitoring software or keystroke capture devices on your family computer that will help monitor your child’s Internet activity

·        know each of your child’s passwords, screen names and all account information

·        put the computer in a family area of the household and do not permit private usage

·        report all inappropriate non-criminal behavior to the site through their reporting procedures

·        report criminal behavior to the appropriate law enforcement agency including the NCMEC Cybertip line or the Internet Fraud Complaint Center

·        contact your legislators and request stronger laws against Internet crime

·        contact the corporations who place advertisements on the sites and let them know that their advertising is helping to support inappropriate Internet behavior. Also, let the corporations know that you intend to boycott or discontinue using their product(s) because of the behavior they are supporting

·        visit the NCMEC Netsmartz Workshop at http://www.netsmartz.org for more information

·        remember that every day is Halloween on the Internet. People on the Internet are not always as they first appear.

 

 

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