Social Networking Safety Tips

In the last 15 years, the amazing viral craze of social networking sites has blossomed from zero to over a hundred different sites on the Internet. People have taken up the craze in order to find new friends from all over the world. However, people using a social networking service need to remember that there are safety issues to consider.

The first thing you need to do is to check out how each social networking site works, before you sign up with one. Because your personal information can be used by criminals, you need to know if the site you're considering joining allows non-members to view profiles. If so, you probably need to look elsewhere.

You also need to find out if the site allows you to restrict access to your personal information. You should restrict such access to friends, family and trusted acquaintances. Again, by putting information out in the open for people to see, you allow unscrupulous to perhaps commit identity theft, or harm you in a number of other ways.

That being said, it's obvious that important information should never be posted. Things like your social security number, your address, your phone number, or any banking or financial information. Don't make things easy for criminals to cause you harm and grief.

The information that you can post would general things -- things that can change and things that can't necessarily identify you. Things like your future plans, or dreams and aspirations. This will help know more about you and who you are as a person without letting them know who you are in terms of identity.

Many social networking sites allow you to post photographs. While this might be something you want to do, nasty people might be able to take that image and make "creative changes" to it and posting it elsewhere. Software like Photoshop can enable people to take an innocent photograph and turn it into something embarrassing or humiliating. Or incriminating.

Once you start making friends on a social networking site, you need to take precautions as well. Ask mutual friends questions about this person. You could also do a Google search of the person's name to find out more about them. While most would-be friends are on the up-and-up, there just might be a weirdo or two looking to find someone gullible. If after checking them out everything seems okay, you can consider meeting in person.

Even after clearing the person, make sure you meet them in a public place where there are a lot of people. Make sure you let several people know where you're going, whom you'll be meeting and when you expect to be back. This may sound unnecessary or excessive, but when your personal safety is involved, you need to take all the precautions that you can.

If a problem should arise -- leave. If the person follows you and persists, get help. Report the incident both to the police and to the social networking site. They can cancel that person's membership making it impossible for him or her to get in touch with you. You can also get your friends to let people on other social networking sites know about the individual, so that their accounts on these other sites might be cancelled as well.

Social networking can be a lot of fun, but you need to take steps to protect your personal safety and your identity.

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