MySpace.com is a website where users register by entering personal information and a photo and then proceed to post more information and chat with others. In the course of carrying on what may seem like harmless conversations, many teens share valuable personal information that, in the wrong hands, is potentially very dangerous. This danger is mostly avoidable. In short, as little information as possible should be shared on MySpace. The more information you give out, the more vulnerable you become to an online predator. Each piece of information you make available online is another piece of the map that leads right back to exactly who you are, where you live, who your friends are, where you go after school, and even more bits of information that would send chills down any parent’s spine.
Filters and Spyware (software that monitors the sites, postings, e-mails, chats, etc that are visited or take place online) increase in popularity every year, and parents are doing more now than in any year previous. However, many households still do not use any kind of filters or spyware on their computers. Some households still have no rules or restrictions for their children’s use of the Internet, and it is this percentage that causes a lot of concern. Teens need to know not only what information should be shared and should not be shared online, but also why sharing certain information could be so dangerous for them.
Protect your identity
Predators are getting smarter and smarter at finding ways to trick and manipulate their online victims. You may think that there is no information on your MySpace page that can link a predator directly to you, but you may be surprised how little a motivated person needs to find what school you go to, who your friends are, what your after school activities are, etc. Every time you give a detail about your life it can be used as a clue against you. This is why it is so important to always protect your identity from someone that you do not know. Only chat with people that you know well. Make sure that those friends who are online with you also know that you do not want anyone to know your identity because they can just as easily leak sensitive information about your identity to a stranger.
Protect your privacy
Many teens post very private things on their MySpace pages. This is not necessarily a good idea as the Internet is the forum for almost every person with a computer in the world. Your privacy is better protected in a journal or something that you can close, lock, and hide under the bed.
Protect your reputation
Do not post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother, boss, or other respected individual to see. The Stacy Snyder incident is a good example of the importance of protecting your reputation. Snyder was a student who was about to graduate and get her teaching certificate. She posted a picture of herself drinking on her website while wearing a pirate hat (her school mascot). When the university administration found out about the picture they said it was “unprofessional” and denied Snyder her teaching certificate. Years later Snyder is still in a battle to regain her reputation, and all this could have been avoided had she used good judgment and not posted something she wouldn’t want anyone else to see on her MySpace page.
Protect your friends
Just as your friends should be looking out for your best interest by protecting your private information, you should be doing the same for them. Be sure that as you are chatting you know exactly who you are talking to. If the person that you are chatting with begins asking questions about others that you do not feel comfortable about, remember that you do not have to feel obligated to answer their questions.