Safebook

Social networking websites are great fun and a valuable communication tool, but with all that functionality come some dangers too. Matt Wade explains how to keep your kids safe from harm.

  • E-Mail
By  Matt Wade Published  March 9, 2008

Social networking websites are great fun and a valuable communication tool, but with all that functionality come some dangers too. Matt Wade explains how to keep your kids safe from harm.

In today's online world, where Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Hi5 and Friendster have been designed to appeal to tech-savvy youngsters, the kids of 2008 are presented with an interesting mix of 'virtual' social situations, the likes of which their parents never experienced.

Of course with any evolution there are benefits and drawbacks. The main 'pro' of such sites is pretty obvious; almost instant communication with friends and family, wherever they are around the world.

Arguably the biggest 'con' is that many children's parents aren't even aware of the dangers. And this is a worry.

Put simply, a blind parental acceptance of the fact that 'my kids know more than I do' simply won't wash in 2008, as without your knowledge and guidance, your offspring might genuinely find themselves at risk of one kind or another.

Whilst it's easy to lurch into hyperbole and risk putting the frighteners on any mum or dad with stories of abductions primed over the net and digital stalkers, the truth is that such problems are - according to the reports publicly available at present - few and far between, and in many cases no more likely online than off.

But since you've presumably warned sons and daughters not to talk to strangers on the street, it's also down to you to proffer advice regarding their online antics.

Today's mums and dads need an understanding of not only the websites in question and how they work, but a grasp of these sites' potential weaknesses and the ways in which those using them can be led into giving away personal information and encouraged into inappropriate and potentially risky relationships with strangers.

First then, let's examine the three hottest networking sites of the moment, including what ages of users they're aimed at and how their 'social mechanisms' work.

Worrying examples

When social networking ruins a life...

Legal

A Texan driver whose car was involved in a fatal road accident found his MySpace postings - including the line "I'm a drunkaholic" - being used by the prosecution.

Workplace

Kevin Colvin, of Anglo Irish Bank, was fired for telling employers he had a family emergency to attend to, when his Facebook page instead proved he'd been cavorting at a Halloween party.

Nineteen UK police officers were investigated recently over the comments they made on their Facebook pages.

According to a Viadeo survey, 62% of British employers now check the Facebook, MySpace or Bebo pages of some applicants. Their concerns apparently include "excess alcohol abuse" and "job disrespect".

Education

Students at Oxford University were disciplined after staff found pictures of them on Facebook getting crazy with shaving foam and flour.

A don at Cambridge University has admitted to scanning applicants' social networking pages.


Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code