Young People & Social Networking

What is social networking?

Social Networking sites are websites where you can create a profile all about yourself and keep in touch with friends. On these sites you can also upload photos, music and videos to share with people, and on some sites, have 1-2-1 chats with people. Popular social networking websites include MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Bebo. They are used by people of all ages and some people have profiles on more than one website.

Why is it good?

Keeping in contact with friends and renewing past friendships is one of the main benefits of social networking. Even if you have a friend who lives far away, social networking sites allow individuals from all around the world opportunity to maintain convenient and accessible contact. This provides us with a window to learn new things about distant countries, people and cultures.

Why can social networking be bad sometimes?

While the benefits of social networking sites are undeniable, it is important to recognise and understand the downside of social networking. The most common danger can involve individuals who claim to be someone they are not. This is because meeting someone face to face and deciding if they are who they say they are is much easier than deciding over an online conversation. The fact that we cannot see the person or hear their voice for example, makes the decision much more difficult.

Another problem with social networking sites is that they provide an environment for cyber bullying to take place. Cyber bullying is when a person, or a group of people, uses the internet to tease or abuse someone. Many users of social networking sites feel anonymous and lose their normal self-restraint behind a computer screen. That which starts as a minor face to face disagreement can develop into a nasty and persistent attack via a social networking site. It is against the law to bully someone in this way and if someone is being mean or threatening you, something can be done to stop them.

If you are being bullied through the internet you can stop it by:

  • Talking to someone you trust like a parent or teacher.
  • Not replying to any messages you receive form the bullies.
  • Keeping a copy of the abusive emails or messages that you receive and when they were sent to you.
  • Never giving out any personal details on the internet such as your real name, address, age or phone number.
  • Changing your online nicknames or user ID to something different.
  • Blocking the email address or deleting the person as a friend if the bullying is taking place on a social networking site like facebook.

Is it safe to meet up with someone you have met on a social networking site?

It is not a good idea to arrange to meet people that you have chatted to online, as you can never be sure if they are who they say they are. If you do decide to meet up with them, tell someone you trust, such as a parent, that you want to do this. Arrange to meet in a public place and take a trusted adult with you.

By being aware of your cyber-surroundings and who you are talking to, you should be able to safely enjoy social networking online, but there are some extra tips which you can follow to make sure you are safe while using the internet.

How you can create a safe social networking profile.

  • Set your privacy settings so only people you trust can look at your profile.
  • Protect yourself by not posting information about your movements.
  • Be careful when it comes to putting on photographs – if you are not happy with the whole world seeing it, then do not post it.
  • Watch what you share. Never put your personal address, phone number or full name on a social networking site.
  • Only add/accept people as friends if you know them in person.

To report suspicious behaviour online contact CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre), which offers advice to parents and young people on using the internet safely.  In addition, The CEOP now has an emergency button on most social networking sites, so young people and parents have a way to report suspect contacts and find out more about the problem.

For more information on staying safe on the internet visit:

www.ceop.police.uk

www.thinkuknow.co.uk

www.childline.org.uk

www.chatdanger.com

If you would like further information on local organisations and sources of support, please do not hesitate to contact us at AMH MensSana on 02838 392314 or e-mail rtallon@amh.org.uk. Confidentiality will be respected at all times.


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