Internet Tips: Safeguard Your Reputation While Socially Networking

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Teach Kids Not to Share

Keeping personal information private is especially crucial for teens. Personal references scattered around a teenager's MySpace page could help a predator lure the youngster into a face-to-face meeting. Fortunately, MySpace kids are creative about obfuscating their online particulars. MySpace doesn't request or set aside room for members' addresses and phone numbers; nobody, regardless of age, should post such information on a blog or social network. MySpace does ask members for their location and age, but almost none of my middle-school son's friends report their true location, instead listing their home towns as "Hippietown, Uzbekistan," "Antarctica, Zimbabwe," and other unlikely burgs. This doesn't interfere with the social interaction they signed up for.

Officially, MySpace prohibits anyone under the age of 14 from creating an account, and it forbids anyone 18 or older from viewing the profiles of anyone 17 or younger. In addition, MySpace now has a setting that allows 14- and 15-year-olds to block other members from seeing their sites. But there's no way to confirm age online: My son and his friends are mostly 12 or 13 years old, but they often list their ages as 100. And nothing prevents a 40-year-old from creating an account as a 14-year-old. So listing yourself as 14, 40, or 84 doesn't prove anything.

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