What's the issue?
With over 200 social-networking sites currently on the web, it’s becoming easier for users to make new friends, keep in touch with old friends, share pictures, and inform the world of major and miniscule life events. However, social networking online isn’t all about funny profile pics and Justin Timberlake Appreciation groups. Not everybody uses these services with the same intentions. For this reason and others, there are dangers that young people must be aware of and protect themselves from.
What is an internet social network?
An internet social network is basically an online virtual community. Users create their own ‘space’ or profile where they can post information about themselves, share pictures, find people with common interests, and keep in touch with friends or family. Over the past 5 years, social networking sites have skyrocketed in popularity, with tens of millions of users signing on to develop their own cyber-world.
Who is participating and why?
Young people have grown up with the internet so it’s no surprise that they were the first to utilise its social networking potential. A random sample of 935 young people between the ages of 12 and17 found that 55% of online teens have a profile account within a site and that 64% of these users were between the ages of 15 and 17.
What sites are included in ‘social networking’?
Above all sites, MySpace and Facebook are controlling the social networking world. Of the market share in 2008, MySpace held 20%, while Facebook held 19%. Facebook was formed in 2004 by a Harvard University student as a site restricted to university students. Now it has opened up to a wider demographic but it still tends to attract young adult users. MySpace attracts a younger audience with pages that you can design to reflect your personality. It was launched in August of 2003, and in 2005, it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation
for US$580 million!
There are many other sites that appeal to all different types of people. Friendster is much like MySpace, while Blogger is a site dedicated just to those who like to blog. Xanga is a site for profiles and blogs and Buzz.org.au is an aussie friendly local site. Finding the right site is a simple process of matchmaking.
Is it safe?
Stalking, identity theft, cyber-bullying and harassment are among the more serious problems facing young social networking users today. It is essential to realise that posting any private information on your profile, such as your address or phone number could allow people to find you in cyber-space or even the real world. Even the name of your school and the activities and clubs you belong to could be potentially hazardous. Make sure to keep yourself safe against e-predators! Phishing, a more recent method, is a scam where internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.
Identity theft can also be dangerous, but it is easy to avoid. Many thieves look towards social networking sites to find people who have posted things such as their full name, where they are from, and even their mother’s maiden name. These crooks look for this information to steal identities for crimes such as fraud and stealing credit card numbers. Make sure not to put up too much information – you could end up nameless or penniless!
Cyber-bullying is also a legitimate danger. It is very common for teens and young people to get harassed online. It should be reported to either the networking site itself or the local police, but most victims don’t get help. Self-harming and suicide are some of the more serious emotional consequences of this type of abuse.
What's being done?
On April 3rd 2008, the Parliament House of Lords in London launched an international guideline to safety of online networking. The Good Practice Guidance for the Providers of Social Networking and Other User Interactive Services 2008
aims to protect the users of online services and those of who have fallen victims to the dangers of these networks. The Guidance
recommends precautions such as default privacy settings for those under 18, and more accessible avenues for people to report online bullying and anti-social behaviour. The entire copy of the document can be found at http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk
Social networking online is a booming industry with hundreds of people joining sites every day. It provides a cyber-world where a user can be anyone they choose to be, and meet people or stay in touch with the people they relate to the most. Unfortunately, cyber-worlds have cyber-issues – and if you don’t stay aware, virtual harm can hurt just as much as a real world slap in the face.
Affected by this issue or know someone who is? Check out our sister site: http://www.reachout.com.au/home.asp
This page was updated by kate elise
How do I know this?
Federal Trade Commission (USA), ‘Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens’ (May 2006) www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/tech/tec14.shtm
‘Good Practice Guidance for the Providers of Social Networking and Other User Interactive Services 2008, Home Office Police’ www.police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/operational-policing/social-networking-guidance
‘Hitwise Asia Pacific Social Networking Report 2008’ www.hitwise.com.au/registration-page/ap-social-networking-report.php
Jardon, Xeni, ‘Online Social Networks Go to Work’, MSNBC Interactive
‘MySpace, Facebook, and Other Social Networking Sites: Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow?’, Knowledge Wharton (May 2006) www.knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1463
Pew Internet and American Life Project www.pewinternet.org/
‘Social Networking’, The Internet Survival Guide for Parents
(May 2006) www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/social-networking.php
‘Social Networking Sites: A Parent’s Guide’, OnGuard Online
(September 2007) www.onguardonline.gov/socialnetworking.html
Sharma, Daksh, ‘Social Networking God: 350+ Social Networking Sites’ (October 2007) www.mashable.com/2007/10/23/social-networking-god/
Thompson, Clive, ‘Brave New World of Digital Intimacy’, New York Times
(September 5 2008) www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/magazine/07awareness-t.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin&oref=slogin
‘Web Trends: Social Networking Online’ (November 2007) www.fatpublisher.com.au/resources.php?topic=6&article=14&page=1