Tips to Keep Your Teens (and Yourself) Safe on MySpace and Other Social Networking Sites

Make MySpace, and any similar online meeting place, a safer environment for your kids: Internet ScamBusters #219

Internet ScamBusters™
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
Issue #219


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
Networking Sites.”

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=""
target="_blank">credit card offers, remember these quick tips to
protect yourself.

College Scholarship Search Services Explained: Learn the pros and
cons of paying a service to do a href=""
target="_blank">college scholarship search for your college-bound

Identity Theft Resources in Your Neighborhood: href=""
target="_blank">Identity theft information can be closer to home
than you think.

Good Samaritan Laws Explained: Be prepared for any href=""
target="_blank">emergency by understanding how the Good Samaritan
law works.

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
as text.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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
    MySpace administrators.

    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.)

  8. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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
next year.

Time to close — see you next week.