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Social Networking Sites

Millions of people all over the world use social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo, MySpace. Whilst these sites are a great way to stay in touch with old friends and make new ones, when joining such a site you need to be aware of the risks involved and how to protect yourself.

If you belong to a social networking site it is likely that you are putting personal information online. This could pose a risk to you as once the information is on the internet you may not be able to control who sees it or how it is used. Before creating a profile, sending a message or putting up a picture, consider the following factors:

Who can access information about you?

Be aware of who has access to personal information that you put online. Many sites allow you to decide which parts of your profile can be accessed by others, but assume that everything is public unless you are certain that it isn't. Remember that your online friends will be able to show any information you put online to others. In some cases making your information 'private' means that anyone can see the information but only your friends can comment on it.

Don't assume everyone you meet online is who they appear to be. The information provided by users when they are registering for social networking sites is not checked so anyone can create a user profile pretending to be anyone else. Bare in mind that anyone regardless of their real or pretend age can join as many school communities as they want. If someone contacts you and you feel unsure about them don't feel obligated to respond to them. If you find something online that you don't like or makes you feel uncomfortable, turn off the computer and tell an adult.

Be aware what info you put up

Do be careful with your personal information. Pictures can easily be copied and shared or because of their digital nature, they can even be altered and distorted. Don't post any pictures that you wouldn't want everyone you know to see, that includes your family and your teachers.

Be careful about posting information that could be used to find you offline. Even small things such as photos with like car registration plates or your house in the background could give someone clues as to where to find you. Avoid posting messages to blogs along the lines of "I usually walk home down the lane by the railway tracks". There are some people out there who will piece together little snippets of information about you over a long period of time.

Be careful how you treat people on-line

As in everyday life, it is important to treat people with respect on the Internet. Online bullying is actually easier to detect and trace than offline bullying and because of the code of practice adopted by Internet Service Providers and mobile phone operators, companies are obliged to step in when illegal activity is reported to them.