Steps for safer social networking
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Across North Carolina and the world, hundreds of millions of people are using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to share information and connect with each other. But social networking has a dark side. Criminals and con artists can use these tools to rip us off or even worse, harm our children.
I recently hosted a town hall meeting at Panther Creek High School in Cary for parents and young people who wanted to learn how to be safer when using social networking websites. Experts from my office, the State Bureau of Investigation and Facebook answered their questions and offered tips, and we streamed the event live online.
In case you missed our social networking safety town hall, you can watch it at ncdoj.gov. In summary, here are some of the key questions and answers:
How do I know if my child is ready for online social networking?
Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular sites, ban youngsters under the age of 13. Unfortunately, many kids know about the age limit and lie about their age in order to set up a social networking account. If you know of children under 13 who are on a social networking site, report them to the site. In many cases, you can do so anonymously.
But just because a child turns 13 doesn’t mean he or she is ready for social networking. Consider your child’s age and maturity level before you agree to let them join a social networking website.
How can I protect my information if I’m on a social networking website?
Privacy and security features are a key element of safe social networking. If you join a site or allow your kids to, use the available privacy features. Privacy settings can be used to limit who sees the information you post, including photos and contact information. Websites frequently change or update their privacy policies, so you’ll need to check your privacy settings regularly, as often as once a month.
Is anything posted online truly private?
It isn’t. Make sure especially that kids understands that the things they post online can easily end up being seen by people they never intended, no matter their privacy settings. Once a piece of information or image has been shared online with one person, that person can share it with others. If you want a photo or something you wrote to stay completely private, it isn’t safe to post it anywhere online.
What information shouldn’t be shared on social network sites?
Think twice before ever sharing certain information that could be used by criminals and hackers. It’s never a good idea to post when you’ll be away from home or share information that you use as passwords or as answers to security questions, such as your pets’ names.
It’s especially important to talk to your kids about the dangers of sharing too much information online. If a young person’s status updates, online profiles or blog entries suggest an interest in sex, an adult who is looking for a willing young person may believe that they have located a good candidate to victimize. Other information posted by young people on social networking sites may not be dangerous but can become embarrassing. Colleges and employers often check social network sites when reviewing applicants, and posts or photos can give them the wrong impression.
For more information about how to stay safe online, visit our website at ncdoj.gov. Experts from my office are also available to make Internet safety presentations to your school or community group. Email us at Outreach@ncdoj.gov
to schedule a presentation.