Social Networking Tips for Teens
03 October 2011
Social networks have helped to connect teens in ways that are fast, fun and phenomenally wide-ranging. And they can continue to be enjoyable and safe, as long as we take a few simple precautions along the way.
So, how do you keep yourself safe on social networks?
- Use a nick name or code name.
It is best not to use your real name or to use names that might be sexually suggestive or offensive to others in any way. This can help reduce the likelihood of you being harassed online.
- Set your profiles to private.
Social networking sites can be a great tool for connecting with others. A good way to stay safe while using these services is to set your profile to private. This way, only people you invite can see what you post.
- Keep personal information to yourself.
It is best not to share your address, phone number or other personal information online with strangers. Don’t reveal your actual location or when and where you plan to be somewhere.
- Think about what you post.
Be cautious about sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even with people you know or even in a private email or text conversation. The information or conversation could be copied and made public by anyone you share it with, and it’s tough to get removed. Remember: what you say in a chat room or instant messaging session is live. You cannot take it back or delete it later.
- Keep your security software up-to-date.
Social networking sites are very popular. Because there are so many people using them, cyber criminals have been known to use stealthy tactics in order to infect the computers of people who use them. So, ensure that any computer that you use to access social networking sites is well-protected by a firewall and anti-virus system.
- Read between the ‘lines’.
It may be fun to meet new people online for friendship or romance, but be aware that, while some people are nice, others act nice because they are trying to get something. Flattering or supportive messages may be more about manipulation than friendship or romance.
- Avoid in-person meetings.
The only way someone can physically harm you is if you’re both in the same location, so – to be 100% safe – don’t meet them in person. If you really have to get together with someone you’ve ‘met’ online, don’t go alone. Have the meeting in a public place, tell a parent or some other solid backup, and bring some friends along.
- Be nice online.
Treat people the way you’d want to be treated. Harassing or bullying anyone online, if considered threatening, can also be considered a criminal offense.
- Think about how you respond.
If someone says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, block them and don’t respond. If they continue, let your parents or another adult know. If the messages are threatening in any way, save the messages and tell your parents, as this may be considered a criminal offense.
- Be smart when using a mobile phone.
All the same tips apply with phones as with computers. Except phones are with you wherever you are, often away from home and your usual support systems. Be careful about who you give your number to and how you use GPS and other technologies that can pinpoint your physical location.