Social Networking Safety Tips

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Social Networking: Cast Your Social Net on the Web

You’ve undoubtedly heard the names Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster thrown around in recent years. These sites are examples of online social networks, and are a tiny fraction of the number of similar sites taking root on the Web. We're all familiar with social networks offline; they could be one’s professional contacts, college friends, or family members. Online social networks take this idea of connecting with others and make it digital. Whether it’s for fun, business, romance, or any other reason, more and more people are interacting over the Net. To learn more about this phenomenon, and to do some networking of your own, use the resources provided in this guide. For a Spanish-language version of the Guide, click here.

Basics of Social Networking

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Choosing a Social Network

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Social Networking Safety Tips

Anytime you put personal information into the public domain you run the risk of that personal information being used against you (in identity theft, phishing scams, or to take advantage of a young child). If you’re concerned for your child’s online safety, or the privacy and safety of your own information, the following sites have plenty of tips to keep you (and your personal information) safe on social networking sites.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Here are some key safety tips to follow for online social networking (each is explained in more detail below):
    • Adjust your privacy settings to keep your information out of public view.
    • Parents can set up accounts and “friend” their children to help watch their activities.
    • Be suspicious of e-mails claiming to be from your social networking site. Don’t give out sensitive information in response to an e-mail.
    • To avoid phishing, check the URL at the top of the screen before you enter your username and password on a social networking site—there are imposter sites that exist to get this information, so make sure you are where you think you are.
    • Many social networks rely on users to report inappropriate or illegal behavior so if you encounter this, report it to the site, or to a state or federal authority.
  • Most social networking sites have privacy settings that control, among other things, who is allowed to view your personal profile. Changing your privacy settings is one of the easiest ways to stay safe (and keep your information confidential). If you aren’t sure how to do this, see the Pick from GetNetWise below.
  • If you’re a parent, consider setting up your own basic profile on the sites where your child has an active profile, and "friend" them. This way you'll be privy to the information and images that your child is making available. You won’t, however, have the ability to view private messages, which are sent between individual users.
  • Criminals are increasingly using the practice of online "phishing" to steal identities. Phishing is the attempt to obtain personal and financial information by pretending to be a legitimate company or organization. Any e-mails that you receive that claim to be from your social networking site should be considered suspect and examined very carefully. Phishing can be accomplished through Web sites or e-mail, so be cautious no matter what you're doing online. In general, you can thwart phishing attempts simply by being wary of unsolicited requests for any of your personal information, especially account numbers and passwords. Avoid clicking away from the social networking site and always check the URL of the site (even if it looks legit) before you enter your username and password. If an online “friend” sends you a request to click away from the social networking site or sends you an advertisement, proceed with caution as your friend’s account may have been compromised. Read more about phishing on the sites featured in this section.
  • Remember that the information you make available online could be found by an employer or friend. Your online profile is a reflection of you so make sure that whatever you put out there, you wouldn’t mind your potential or current boss (or even your mother) finding.

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