Young people are generally innocent, free spirited and trusting of others. Children do not assume the worst of people like adults often do. Whether or not you think naivete is a good thing or not, it is important to take measures to secure the safety of our children.
If you are a teen concerned about what your parents have told you about Internet safety, or you have just heard reports of the dangers of speaking to strangers over the Internet, you need to be made aware that there are bad people in the world who may take advantage of you. As a teen you need to be smart about what you do online and consider that the counsel and restrictions that may be imposed upon you by your parents is only for your own good. Predators will take every opportunity to use your good nature against you. You do not have to become an untrusting person to learn how to exercise caution in uneasy situations. There is an inner voice in all of us that tells us when something is not right. You may call it a gut feeling, intuition, divine influence, etc. The point is that you learn to hear that voice and know how to react if you encounter any unsafe situation.
A motivated predator can find out what he needs
It is relatively standard to include at least your name and your photo on your MySpace page. But do you realize that through the postings and conversations that you have online you can disclose a lot of valuable information about yourself, and you may not even realize that you are doing it? For example, conversations about the up-coming dance can give away information about what school you attend and what neighborhood you live in; it also tells a predator where exactly you will be next Saturday night. This is only one small example; imagine what many conversations over the course of time can tell a predator. In no time a dangerous person can figure out things about you that you may not even realize.
When polled, 23% of teen MySpace profile creators said it would be “pretty easy” for someone to find out who they are from the information posted to their profile. 40% of teens with MySpace profiles online think that “it would be hard for someone to find out who they are from their profile,” but that a predator could eventually find where they were based on the online information. It is estimated that 7% of all teen Internet users have had an uncomfortable contact experience with someone who they did not know online. Make sure that you do not become a victim of someone’s sick crimes; you need to take the danger of MySpace and other sites where you post personal information seriously.
Know who you’re talking to
Closely guard who you allow to see your webpage, and only contact the individuals that you know personally. It is not a good idea to be trying to make new friends online. You never know how many truths are shared versus complete lies. Furthermore, the dangers of meeting someone that you have only spoken to online are significant.
It is much easier for a stranger or a dangerous predator to first make contact online versus in person. Teens tend to agree with this theory. The majority of teens (73%) believed that it was more likely that a stranger would approach them online versus offline. Fortunately only about 32% of teens say that they have ever been contacted online by a stranger and 65% of those teens say that they react by deleting the message or ignoring the stranger completely. Still, having nearly one out of every three teens contacted by strangers is frightening. The fact that about 21% of those contacted by a stranger will pursue the relationship by asking the stranger questions and for more information about the individual contacting them is even more distressing.