Make MySpace, and any similar online meeting place, a safer environment for your kids: Internet ScamBusters #219
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
We’ve had a lot of subscribers request that we write about
staying safe on MySpace, as well as other similar sites. So
today, we have an issue for you called “Tips to Keep Your
Teens (and Yourself) Safe on MySpace and Other Social
Although we focus on MySpace, the same advice applies to other
social networking websites as well. If you are a parent,
grandparent, or teen, we recommend you pay close attention.
We also have a short Snippet at the end of this issue for
subscribers who have analog cell phones.
First, though, we recommend you check out the most popular
articles from our other sites during the past week:
Misconceptions about Credit Card Offers: When your mailbox is
inundated with href="http://www.creditcardtipsetc.com/misconceptions_about_credit_card_offers.html"
target="_blank">credit card offers, remember these quick tips to
College Scholarship Search Services Explained: Learn the pros and
cons of paying a service to do a href="http://www.consumertipsreports.org/college_scholarship_search_services_explained.html"
target="_blank">college scholarship search for your college-bound
Identity Theft Resources in Your Neighborhood:
target="_blank">Identity theft information can be closer to home
than you think.
Good Samaritan Laws Explained: Be prepared for any
target="_blank">emergency by understanding how the Good Samaritan
On to today’s topic…
Tips to Keep Your Teens (and Yourself) Safe on MySpace and
Other Social Networking Sites
MySpace is one of the most popular social networking websites
(with well over 100 million users). It lets users interact
with a network of friends, and create personal profiles and
blogs that include photos, music, audios and videos, as well
In fact, MySpace is a great place for teens to communicate and
interact with friends who live down the block — or across the
world. They can share photos, music, messages… just about
anything. And bands have used MySpace very successfully to
communicate directly with fans.
Now, you don’t have to be a teenager to obtain a MySpace
account. Anybody with access to the Internet can sign up for
this free website.
Though most users are honest — and many can be great Internet
acquaintances — there are enough shady users to warrant your
concern as a parent, grandparent or teen.
Here are a few things that parents and teens can do to make
MySpace, and any similar online meeting place, a safer
8 MySpace Safety Tips for Teens:
Don’t use your real name anywhere on the site. If you have
a common first name — Thomas, Samantha, or Chris — use that
and nothing more.
You can also pick a name that is meaningful to you without
giving away personal details. For example, create a username
that reflects your interest in music or writing, art or cars.
Fill out as little of your personal profile as possible.
You don’t have to tell everybody how old you are or where you
live. Some people opt to give only their home state, or region
in some cases, for safety reasons.
You also don’t have to upload a photo of yourself. If you want
to share some sort of image, you can find an avatar online
that fits your personality.
A good rule of thumb is to not post anything you don’t want
the whole world to know about.
Only let people on your “friends” list access your profile
and other information. The less you reveal to strangers, the
safer you’ll be.
This will only work, though, if you use discretion when you
add people to your friends list. If you reciprocate every
friend request that you receive, you’ll quickly lose control
over profile access.
When you post a blog entry, proofread your writing a couple
of times before you submit. After all, you don’t want to give
away too much personal information.
For example, Internet strangers don’t need to know which
school you attend, your kid brother’s first name or where you
go to church.
Also, don’t post things that could embarrass you later. Even
if you set your profile to “private,” it could still come back
to haunt you later.
Sometimes you’ll receive comments or messages from people
you don’t know. If that happens, you should be careful if you
decide to reply.
Dangerous people often have subtle ways of making you slip up
and share the wrong information when you aren’t on guard.
Remember that the moment you send a comment or message to
somebody else, whatever you wrote is no longer in your
What you send to one person — even a friend you know IRL (“in
real life”) — can travel all over the Internet (and your
school’s hallways) without you even knowing this is happening.
If you have something to say that you don’t want just anybody
knowing, tell only your most trusted relatives and friends —
in person, not via the Internet, text messaging or email.
If another MySpace user is making you uncomfortable —
trying to send you photos that you don’t want to see, or
asking overly personal questions — report that user to
Then add that user to your “ignore” list and forget all about
him or her once you’ve contacted MySpace.
(Confronting that user won’t solve anything. Some people
actually feed on conflict: don’t give the user the
satisfaction of being sucked in.)
Recognize the employers often check MySpace before making
job offers. So be careful about what you post on your MySpace
Here are four things that parents should do:
Ask for access to your teen’s MySpace page.
You need to decide on the rules about your access to your
teen’s page. If you feel you need/want access, then you
should be able to hop on your computer and visit the page any
time you want. If your child has “friends only” enabled, then
your username should be on that list. This way, you can view
your teen’s page to make sure that he or she hasn’t posted
anything overly personal.
Depending on your teen’s age and maturity level, you might
want to restrict Internet access to times when you’re around.
Many parents keep the family computer in a common room so
they can check on what their children are doing without having
to barge into a bedroom.
Again, depending on your teen’s age, you might want to know
who is on your teen’s list of friends. Some will be other
teens that you already know: classmates, teammates, youth
group buddies or the like. Others will be strangers to you.
Knowing who these people are could help you keep your teen safe.
If your teen is supposed to meet an online-only friend in
person, consider being there as well. If your teen is meeting
another teen who lives in the area, they could probably still
have a good time together even though boring old Mom or Dad is
not too far away.
But if a predator shows up to meet with your teen and sees you
there, he or she will leave as quickly as possible.
When you and your teen follow these tips — and remember to
communicate with each other every step of the way — you’ll be
able to sleep well at night knowing that you’re doing what you
can to protect your son or daughter’s virtual life.
Teaching your teen how to stay safe on MySpace (without being
overly protective) is something you can — and should — do.
For Analog Cell Phone Users
There are two general types of cell phone services: analog and
digital. Analog is older and is being phased out.
In fact, analog is scheduled to “go dead” (i.e., stop working)
on February 18, 2008, less than a year from now. (It is
possible that this date may be extended in the future — that
certainly does happen with deadlines like this.)
Nonetheless, it’s important to know that if you have an analog
phone, it will stop working in the not-too-distant future.
So, you’ll probably want to get a new cell phone within the
Time to close — see you next week.