As social-networking Web sites like MySpace.com and Facebook.com continue to grow, so do the potential dangers they pose to teens and younger kids who use them.
These sites resemble public diaries in that they allow kids to post photos and information that's shared with others. While many young people use them to express themselves creatively or to meet new friends, a number of kids post explicit pictures of themselves or include inappropriate comments or facts about themselves. The danger is that these kids could fall prey to online predators and pedophiles.
Myspace.com's policy is not to allow kids under 14 to post on the site. While these sites may set rules to keep younger kids away, they can't prevent kids from lying about their age.
WiredSafety.org, a nonprofit online safety and help group, offers the following tips for parents about talking to their kids about social-networking sites and blogs. For more safety information from WiredSafety.org Click Here.
Find out if your child has a page on one of these sites. The best way to find out is to ask your child, but you can search sites using your child's e-mail address or by searching for his or her school.
Review the page for inappropriate photos or information. If you want your child's profile removed, first ask your child to remove it. If that doesn't work, you can contact the company that hosts the site.
Ask your child why he or she posted on the site. Maybe your child wanted to share thoughts with others or make new friends. But not all the motives are safe. Your child may be interested in meeting new romantic interests or role-playing inappropriately online.
If you discover that your child has posted provocative comments or inappropriate images online, it's time for a tough talk -- about sexual exploitation, risks of meeting offline and the possibility that "cute 14-year-old boy" is not who he says he is.
You can also use parental-control programs. Many can block access to social-networking Web sites. There are many other products you can purchase to block sites as well.