Dangers of personal social networking

Commentary Opinion

We all know the benefits of social-networking that have allowed long lost loved ones to find each other and make new friends as well as reconnect with old ones. Social-networking has even solved crimes, but we truly need to consider the personal information we give that many of these sites ask for when signing up?

Many of us are aware of the dangers involved in social networking, but I wanted to take the time to remind everyone and hopefully bring it to the attention of those who don’t.

It is important to realize that any potential employer could easily view your profile, this is why anything you post like pictures, messages and status posts should be kept sensible and appropriate. For those going into politics or other areas of special interest should definitely keep it real because anything you do or say on these sites could end up haunting you and ruin a promising career.

You can’t “take back” the online text and images you have entered. Once online, “chat” as well as other web postings become public information. Almost all of these sites are “cached” by search engines, and photos and text can be retrieved long after the site has been deleted. People have been denied entry into schools and don’t get hired for jobs because of dangerous, demeaning or harmful information found on their personal sites or blogs.

Most sites and services ask you to post a “profile” with your age, sex, hobbies and interests. While these profiles help you connect and share common interests, potential exploiters can and do use these profiles to search for victims.

People can be anyone they want on the internet and that is a real danger. Users posing as someone or something they are not can take advantage of this-and this aspect of social-networking profiles-to reap havoc on anyone they choose. No one is safe from those who want to find you for whatever reason it may be.

It is easy to put your friends at risk as well. Protect your friends by not posting any names, passwords, ages, phone numbers, school names or locations. Don’t post plans or upcoming events on your site. Certainly be careful posting pictures that could reveal sensitive information. Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to be sure you are not giving away identifying information without realizing it. The name of a mall, the license plate of a car, signs or the name of your sports team could all reveal your location. Never post sexually provocative photos of yourself or your friends.

Sometimes you may think you are being clever, releasing only bits and pieces of information about yourself or friends, but smart fraudsters can easily put this information together to know more about you. They could go as far as claiming to be an old school friend to gather more personal information on you.

The key point is that nobody really knows who they are talking to on social networking sites, so think carefully before you post information about yourself or others. Always remember what you post online are not private. Parents, teachers, coaches, employers and admissions officers may go online and find out things about you-from your profile, or from someone else’s. People have lost jobs, admission offers and scholarships.

Going in to the beginning of this new semester when we all will be social networking, keep these things in mind and play it safe.

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