MySpace: Friend or Foe?
A reader asks, “I have heard a lot of scary stuff about MySpace recently, Is it really all that dangerous?”
The Internet, with meeting spaces and the ability to network socially, is especially useful for GLBT teens to express themselves, find each other and break isolation. Really great things can happen and some terrible things can happen too. Take me for example, I met my last and my current boyfriend thanks to cyberspace; but, I also suffered identity theft a number of years ago by responding to a “phish”letter.
MySpace and sites like it can provide a great resource, but you must be careful how you use it as these site are also proving to be a great resource to predators. Why do they appeal to predators? Because it is easy to locate kids by school and age, should a predator live in the neighborhood. And there often is a lot of personal information, pictures, pics of friends and so forth so that a would be predator can pick you out of the crowd and stalk you. Should a predator decide to get bolder then he/she can post as a “friend” on your blog or profile or even “bump” into you and fool you with your own information into thinking he/she is safe or cool and maybe knows a friend or a relative. Get how easy this is!
My point here is not to scare you out of using such web sites. I encourage you to use them, BUT SAFELY. Ok, so how do you do that? Read on.
Basically, use your common sense and don’t put too much identifying information on your profile.
Be as anonymous as possible. Don’t use your last name, your school, your address, your cell phone number or places that you hang out.
Use privacy preferences if the site has them and only allow people you know to access your profile.
Do not meet someone from on line unless you are sure of their identity. Never meet someone alone (always have friends near) and only meet and stay in a public space.
Be careful what pictures you post on the net. Avoid using photos that make it easy to identify you, your house or neighborhood or family. It is not smart to upload suggestive PICS. It is really easy to copy and past your pictures and use them for other purposes. Before uploading any photos think about how you would feel if they were seen by your grandma or an employer.
If you allow others to comment on your profile or blog site then check it often. DO NOT respond to mean or embarrassing comments. Just delete them and block the writer from making future comments.
If you have been victimized as a result of using sites such as MySpace I would appreciate your letting me know what happened and any other ideas you may have to help others not fall prey to problems. You can email me through the “ask a question” feature and your identity can remain anonymous if you wish.