Social Networking

November 19, 2007
Social networking sites have only been around for a few years, but their popularity among teens and young adults is off the charts. With the drastic increase in users over the years, people, especially parents, have begun to wonder: are these sites dangerous? Are my kids safe? Recent complaints and terrifying stories have left people in shock. But contrary to popular belief, there are positive factors of social networking sites, as well.
The statement “Be careful about what you do online” is true. Ever since the increase of the internet’s popularity, employers have been checking up on the major sites. People have been refused a job or internship because of information that has been seen on their profiles. Aside from that, as the popularity of social networking sites increases, the vulnerability of the users to hackers and scam artists increases as well. Sexual harassment, “cyber-bullying,” the quick spread of rumors, and identity theft are common among friend networking site users. Users that do not set their profiles to “private” do not realize that everyone with Internet access, including sexual predators, may see the pictures and personal information they post. Because of that, pedophiles are using social networking sites to gain access to meeting kids. In some cases and studies, teens were found to not only list their names and addresses, but even cell phone numbers and after school schedules. Therefore, it becomes easier for them to become stalked by strangers, and sometimes even acquaintances. The lesson learned is not to post anything too personal.
Take a look at the other side of the story. Social networks are a good way to make connections with people with similar interests and goals. Most sites, such as Facebook, offer campus surveys, party or event listings and other information that communicates the "pulse" of a campus or community culture. They can be a great way to understand and stay connected to your area, including other students, staff, faculty, alumni and even long-lost friends/family. Sites also offer students the opportunity to create a positive self-image, by letting users put their best qualities “out there.” During the shooting at Virginia Tech University in April, social networking sites (Facebook in particular) helped students communicate during and after the event. The site allowed them to let other people know what was going on, and share their feelings with each other afterwards. There are even some specialty sites that connect people with STDs so they don’t as feel alone. Lastly, most social networking sites offer advertising. A lot of users take advantage of that for a quick and easy way to make some extra money.
Without a doubt, there are advantages and disadvantages to having a social networking website. If all users know where the line is between harmless fun and actual danger, there would be less of a negative image. The main purpose of the sites is to keep people up-to date with their colleagues, not scare them into being paranoid. The bottom line is to practice caution, but at the same time, have fun when you’re using a networking site.

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