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Cyber Security: Social Networking and Personal Web Sites

What They Are

Social networking sites, like MySpace and Facebook, are some of the most popular sites visited by tweens, teens and 20-somethings. These sites allow users to post information about themselves, use blogs, chat rooms, e-mails and instant messaging. It connects users with friends new and old and is meant to broaden social circles. But it also increases exposure to sexual predators, scam artists, and hackers. Social networking sites rely on connections and communication, and therefore, encourage users to provide an abundance of personal information—information that can be used to steal someone's identity, attract sexual predators, or encourage online bullying.

But you can protect yourself and your children by following these guidelines when visiting social networking sites:

Socialize Safely Online

  • Keep the computer in an open area, so you can keep an eye on what your child is viewing.
  • Talk to your kids about online habits. Explain to them why it's important to keep information like their name, social security numbers, address, phone number, and financial information to themselves. It is also important to make children understand that sharing other information, such as the name of their school, sports teams, clubs, and where they work or hang out could be used as identifiers to figure out who they are and where they can be found.
  • Make sure screen names do not reveal too much. Using a full name, age or hometown in their screen name offers easy identifiers for predators. Picking anonymous names is much safer.
  • Use privacy settings to restrict who has access to post on your child's web site. Many people can see their page, including teachers, police, college admissions officers or a potential employer.
  • Remind your children that once they post information online, they cannot take it back. Even if they delete it from a site, older versions exist in other people's computers.
  • Warn your children of the dangers of flirting with strangers online.
  • Use blocking and filtering software.
  • Report child sexual solicitations to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Cyber Tipline (http://www.cybertipline.com) or by calling 1-800-843-5678. Reports made to the Cyber Tipline are forwarded to the FBI, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Information is also forwarded to the pertinent state and local authorities, and when appropriate, to the Internet Service Provider. For more information, see www.cybertipline.com/en_US/documents/CyberTiplineFactSheet.pdf.



Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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