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Social Media Safety at the Online Playground

For teens, visiting a favorite social media site or chat room can be compared to visiting a playground. Both are places where youth can have fun and socialize with their friends; however, they both represent a certain amount of danger as well. As children, people are at risk of injuring themselves on slides, swings, or other play-related equipment if they are not careful. Some of these childhood injuries may even leave scars or cause other damage that lasts a lifetime. Teens also face threats that are potentially dangerous and damaging, although these are threats of a different nature and don't involve subpar playground equipment. It's important that teens recognize the risks that are associated with social media sites.

The most important thing to remember is that once something is put online, whether in words or a picture, it can be difficult or even impossible to remove. This information can potentially spread to anyone in the world, and because it never truly goes away, someone may find it years in the future. This is a problem for several reasons. First, people who prey on children and teens may have access to any personal information that has been volunteered. Secondly, employers are checking the social media sites of applicants more frequently, as are colleges and universities. They do this to eliminate undesirable candidates who may have done things that will reflect poorly on their university or business. To avoid social media-related problems, teens should avoid posting any information that is personally identifiable. This includes one's address, school name, home or cell phone number, or passwords. Whether setting up a new social media account or using an existing one, check the privacy settings. Ensure that the "friends only" option is selected so that no one who is not an approved friend can see information on the page. This only helps if discretion is used when approving friends. Don't worry about how many friends are following you or not. Teens should only ever approve people who they know personally and trust. This is critical and will prevent criminals and others from accessing your page.

Despite privacy settings, teens still need to think about what they post. Texting and posting naked images of oneself can not only be embarrassing, but it may be considered a crime depending on the person's age. In the event that one has a falling out with someone they currently consider a friend, certain information can be used to bully or embarrass. People can always screen-capture an image from an otherwise private page and post it on a public forum. Before posting anything on social media, consider if it could embarrass or hurt you or your family now or in the future.

  • Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens (PDF): Click here for a brochure about how to remain safe online. It covers not only a variety of safety tips but also links to other related websites.
  • Offline Consequences: This is a video where teens talk about online safety. There are additional videos that are available here as well as tip sheets for tweens and teens.
  • Social Web Tips for Teens (PDF): Read a brief list of social media safety tips on this page.
  • Safe Social Networking Tips for Teens: MedicineNet outlines four major points about how to safely use social networking websites in this short article.
  • Protect Your Online Identity and Reputation: Visit this page for advice from TeensHealth about protecting one's identity and online reputation. Avoiding hostile confrontations and ensuring password safety are some of the pointers that they offer in this article.
  • Tips for Socializing Online: Parents and teens who are concerned about online safety can find useful information on this page by the government of Australia. It covers tips for how to behave online as well as protecting one's password. There are also tabs for tips about how to remain safe on specific social networking sites as well as safety tips for using specific search engines. There is also a tab for safety while playing certain online games.
  • Social Media: A Guide for Teens (PDF): The Young Adult Library Services Association provides safety tips for teens in this brief document. Here, teens can learn how to help adults learn more about social media as well as find links to other sites that provide more information.
  • Social Media Safety Tips: Students can find advice on online safety on this page by the University of New Hampshire. Password protection, identity theft, and computer security are some of the topics that are discussed here.
  • Teen Safety in Cyberspace: Teens looking for advice about using cyberspace safely will find valuable information in this University of Florida article. Online sexual solicitation, cyberbullying, and additional Internet safety websites geared toward teenagers are some of the resources that readers of this page will find.
  • Social Networking Safety: Visit this page by the National Crime Prevention Council to read about safety tips for social networking sites. Teens can read about social networking terminology, tips for staying safe, as well as the major hazards that can be encountered by those who use social media.
  • Kids and Socializing Online: OnGuardOnline.gov discusses how to socialize safely in cyberspace on this page. It covers a variety of subjects, from the potential consequences of one's words to minding one's manners and online profile security.
  • NSTeens: Safety Videos: This website features a series of instructional videos about online safety. Meeting offline, real and fake friends, cyberbullying, and online gaming are some of the many subjects that these videos cover. Visitors will also find quizzes and comics on this site.
  • Safety on the Internet: The Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation offers advice for teens on their page about Internet safety. They warn about the dangers of meeting someone from the Internet in person as well as provide tips for protecting one's privacy. There are also links to other Internet safety-related topics on this page.
  • Social Web Safety Tips For Teens: Click this link to go to an article by SafeKids.com about safety tips regarding social networking sites. Some of the advice this page gives includes teens being careful about what they say online, not talking about sex with strangers, and not meeting face to face.
  • 11 Tips for Social Networking Safety: Visit Microsoft's Safety & Security Center for tips on how to remain safe while using social media. In addition to tips, there are also three brochures that one can find at the bottom of the page.
  • College Admissions Use Social Media to Evaluate Applicants: This news story hosted on Penn Foster College's website warns readers about the use of social media by colleges to screen candidates for admission. Cautious teens can find out what social media outlets colleges check the most often and various ways one can avoid tarnishing their online reputation.
  • Social Networking: Go here to read NetSafeUtah's advice on how to safely use social media.
  • Setting Up a Social Networking Profile: Learn about how to properly create an online profile by visiting this Flash-based guide. Readers will receive tips on making a screen name, posting profile pictures and information, as well as what contact information or pictures are safe to put online.
  • Social Media Etiquette for Teens: This local Fox News station article talks about teens and social networking. It also provides advice on how to see one's Facebook profile as others see it.
  • Safe and Responsible Social Networking: Teens will find useful advice about social networking safety in this PDF article from the Cyberbullying.us website. Predators and the potential consequences of inappropriate comments and images are some of the issues that they discuss here.