What Is Your Teen Doing on Facebook?
Fortunately, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 91% of kids and teens who have a profile on a site such as Facebook or MySpace use it only to keep in touch with friends they see in person. Very few teens are using social networking sites to meet new people. While these numbers seem encouraging, they may give your child a false sense of security, leading her to post personal information in her profile.
Although the danger of posting personal information on the Web may be obvious to adults, children tend to be naïve about the potential risks. According to i-safe.org, more than half of high school students surveyed have given out personal information to someone they have met only online. If privacy settings are not activated to restrict who can view your child's profile, the Internet connects your child to the whole world. Posting an address or cell phone number increases the risk of a host of dangerous situations. Your child may think he is supplying his phone number in his profile so his friends know how reach him offline, but he may also be supplying his phone number to online predators.
Consider this scenario: Your child receives a friend request from a user claiming to be a friend of a friend. Your child believes him and accepts the invite. This unknown user starts chatting with your child, pretending to be the same age. Your child starts communicating and trusting this new "friend." Perhaps she even begins to trust him so much she agrees to meet him in person, when all along this new "friend" is really a sexual predator twice her age. Although this scenario may seem extreme, it is all too common. According to i-safe.org, 20% of high school students and 19% of middle school students surveyed admitted to meeting face-to-face with someone they knew only from the Internet.