Protecting Yourself from Online Predators Using Social Networking Sites

February 25th, 2008 by Adam


PLYMOUTH, N.H.-An Internet phenomenon that’s used by millions of young people can pose a big risk to their safety, according to a Plymouth State University police officer Jennifer Frank. Frank is providing presentations to various groups around New Hampshire about the dangers of the some of the Internets’s most popular social networking Web sites, like Facebook and MySpace. The sites allow users to create a profile for themselves and communicate with people who share interests and activities. More than 60 million people use Facebook, with a quarter-of-a-million new users added daily.

According to Frank, the growing popularity of Facebook and similar social networking sites attract criminal and mentally unstable users who prey on young people using the technology.

“In an ever changing technological world, it is incumbent upon parents to stay abreast of new technology and the many Web sites their children visit and post to daily,” said Frank. “Parents should visit their children’s sites and encourage them to remove identifying photos and information. Facebook is a great tool when used properly, but with every great tool comes the danger of abuse.”

Frank is making presentations around New Hampshire to a target audience of middle and high school students, faculty and staff focusing on the dangers that exist like cyberstalking and some tips and tools for a safer Internet presence.

Shoshanna Cone of New England College’s Department of Campus Safety said most students are unaware of potential problems in posting their information online.

“They don’t realize that once they put the information out on Facebook and Myspace it is available for all to see, said Cone. “They don’t realize that anyone, including predators, can use that information against them.”

Frank’s recent presentations at colleges and high schools have informed educators, parents and students about some common techniques sexual predators and criminals use in identifying victims via social networking sites and guidelines young people can follow to protect them from harm. Some of the tips include:

Internet is forever – think before you post.

Don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say in person
Never share your password.

Don’t post your real name, address or phone numbers

Be aware of the image your Web site portrays to others.

Don’t accept friends if you don’t know them.

Research yourself online to see what is out there about you.

Be aware that your personal image reflects on your professional image.

The feedback from those attending the course is overwhelmingly positive. Some of the comments include:

“This was the best presentation I have ever been to.”

“Everyone should hear this – should be required at orientations!”

“I am going home right now to make my profile safer! Scary!!!”

“Officer Frank’s presentation is timely, real, energized and gets down to the brass tacks of Facebook,” said Gyme Hardy, director of student development and counseling at the New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI). “Her presentation at NHTI was extremely well received by students, faculty and administration.”

For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or Bruce Lyndes