Avoiding the dark sides of social networking websites



Tips for teens about how to stay safe while using social networks on the internet

They are the web?s hottest hangouts: social networking websites such as MySpace, Friendster, Bebo and Dada make it easy to meet friends, share interests, promote your band and just hang out.

They offer all kind of ways to get connected, from an internal email system to blogs, profiles, pictures and much more. Right now, they even go on your mobile phone! No matter where you are, you and your friends can stay connected and keep on sharing in real-time!

But as with any popular meeting place, there are predators and bullies waiting to take advantage of the ill-informed. If you enjoy those cyber-hangouts, you need to protect yourself.

The good news? It just takes a bit of knowledge and the right security tools.

It?s all about friends

You don?t have to respond to everybody and everything! Avoid getting in ?flame wars?, responding to offensive or clearly provocative messages. Just ignore whatever ?does not feel right?.

Your login and password are important! They are not to be shared, even with friends (registering on these sites is usually free and easy. If a ?friend? asks for your login and password, just ask yourself why he can?t get his own…). Stealing user names and passwords is a common trick in social platforms.

Be careful about what you say about yourself or your family! Anybody can read your posts, and for a long time after you?ve written them. Bosses and teachers can stumble upon them and this might prove very embarrassing. You wouldn?t want to jeopardize your chances for a job or a scholarship because of some stupid picture of yourself or some remark you made late at night ages before without having really thought about it?

Learn about splogging to protect your blog and the blogs you visit

Learn to spot phishing scams in your email; this will give you a better chance to avoid viruses, worms and trojan horses.

Steer clear of predators

Stay off the radar of predators! Whenever you?re about to post something, ask yourself if someone would be able to get back to you in real-life with that information. If so, then sanitise your post! Don?t give any clue to your actual identity (school names, class schedules, phone numbers, etc.).

Never get together alone with someone you meet online. This represents the biggest danger to your safety. If you decide to meet someone, talk to your parents first and then meet in a public area, preferably with friends.

When you download content from other users (songs, videos, documents, etc.), you open your computer to hackers. With a well-crafted trojan horse, they can wipe out your pictures and music, or steal your passwords and really make a fool out of you. To guard against these risks, make sure your Internet security program has a firewall and an antispyware tool that work with other parts of your security system to protect your stuff and your computer from hackers, viruses, worms and trojan horses.


Yes, social networking sites are great. And you can enjoy expressing yourself the way you want to as well as stay connected with your friends. But, as in real life, you?d be a fool to think you can do it without taking some precautions. With a bit of forethought and our advice, you can keep your information safe against security threats and continue to enjoy the many social opportunities of the internet. Stay smart, keep up with networking site scams and make sure your computer has security tools.

Have fun!

Source: Symantec