Social networking websites are a very real part of most every teenager’s life. Just five years ago, relatively few of these sites existed. Today however, social networking sites geared towards every group imaginable including teenagers, baby boomers, professionals and others, flood the internet.
If you have or know any teenagers, chances are good they know of and frequently visit social networking sites even if you have no idea they are doing so.
Social networking sites are places teens go to hang out with their friends. Instead of meeting at the mall or the beach or after the football game, teens can simply go online and hang out. Social networking sites help reinforce existing friendships and facilitate making new friends. They’re places teens can go to talk about the things that teens talk about – their favorite movies, music groups, books, movie stars, sports teams, whatever.
As in other areas of life, along with the good there’s usually some bad. Since social networking site members communicate via the internet rather than face-to-face, they never really know with whom they’re chatting. This has made social networking sites a favorite hangout for individuals who prey on our youth.
Social networking sites are also places that people with bad intentions can go to spread destructive messages about others. The speed at which communication on these sites takes place means that a single negative message posted by one individual can make its way around the world in just a few hours – or less!
The vulnerabilities and hazards
The biggest vulnerability social networking sites pose is the member profile. To actively participate in these sites, users must first create profiles of themselves. While it’s true that users can lie about their details, most teens don’t. However the people “acting” as teens do.
Most teens freely post the details of their lives not just on their profiles, but in their online communication with the friends they know and those whom they don’t. These profiles and posts are very revealing, making users vulnerable.
With very little effort, someone looking to harm other users or even simply engage them in conversations that border on deviant can draw users into conversations where little by little, they reveal more and more details of their personal lives.