MySpace is designed to be a forum for young people to exchange ideas, pictures, sounds and words. The idea is that you register your information, obtain your own MySpace page and customize it as you like. The problem is that anyone can use whatever information that they like to register: honesty is not required. You may think that people that you encounter online are a certain type of people, when in reality the person on the other side of the modem could be a predator.
It is becoming more and more difficult to have safe interactions with even the people that you know through chatting and using MySpace. You never really know who could be the face behind the person using a certain user name and downloaded picture. It is sad that we must constantly be on our guard when it comes to the Internet. There are a lot of wonderful things that are made possible because of the Internet! And there are ways to safely make new friends on MySpace without putting yourself, your identity, your personal information, etc. at risk. You just have to be smart about it.
Make sure that you have met a new friend in person before you ever start chatting with them. It may take some of the mystery and excitement out of the relationship to only chat to those whom you have personally met before, but it also takes away a majority of the danger of making new friends. There is no need to make a cyber friend at the cost of your safety and privacy. You should never feel pressured to tell a stranger anything, let alone information that could put you at risk.
You may feel very restricted by these rules. After all, the large part of the appeal of MySpce is to have the interactions that you want with the people that you want. But at what cost are you willing to sell your safety for? The dangers are real. As a teen you are not told to exercise caution when you use the Internet or MySpace because your parents delight in making your life miserable. Every day children are harmed physically and mentally by predators. The negative effects of interacting with a dangerous person can scar you for life. Wouldn’t you want to do all that you could to protect the people that you love?
Use your own good judgment. You are smart and can probably figure out what types of situations are better left avoided. Do not post or chat about anything that would harm your reputation or disclose your identity. Your close friends should already know the things about you that would be dangerous to disclose (such as your address, your age, the school you go to, your whereabouts, etc.).
Teens are not the only people who need to me exercising caution when meeting and greeting friends online. People are often times even more reckless than teens when it comes to safeguarding information and using good judgment to keep yourself safe. As wonderful as dating and matchmaking sites are (MySpace included), you are often finding yourself encouraged to meet complete strangers alone. This should automatically send up a red flag. Do not be alone when you meet any friend/date! It just is not smart. Group dates, or one-on-one dates in public places where you make sure you find your own way home are even all right. Listen to your intuition; often you will feel when a situation is not right. You can make new friends on MySpace without putting yourself, your identity, and your personal information at risk. You just need to be aware of the potential dangers of your actions so that you can keep yourself out of harm’s way.