Radio Show URL: Who-Is-Asking-Your-Children-To-Be-Their-Valentine-Online
Summary: Bill Wardell, one of your Cyberhood Watch partners, recently released his 2008 second edition of Don’t Take Candy from Strangers. The book is a guide for parents, grandparents, and teenagers about how to be safe on social-networking websites, especially MySpace.
A few years ago Bill heard about MySpace and decided to check it out. What he found was a social networking site that had grown exponentially in a very short amount of time. The network is so widely used that even celebrities have their own profiles and use it as a marketing tool.
The Internet and MySpace were both receiving bad press around this same time period due to cyber crime and cyber criminals. The bad press and Bill’s positive impressions with MySpace spurred him to find out the truth regarding the site. Was it really bad? Was there a way to use it and also stay safe? The journey that resulted from investigating these simple questions became Bill’s book, now in its second edition.
First and foremost, Bill suggests keeping children under the age of 16 restricted in their use of the internet and social networking sites due to the fact that they are not mature enough to really understand the potential consequences of their actions online. In addition, and this cannot be stressed enough, it is highly important to teach kids not to give out their personal information online. Personal information, even seemingly vague personal information, can lead cyber criminals to find out a plethora of information about the child and their family, endangering everyone.
It is so important for everyone to keep their personal information safe on the internet, because it has become a place where pedophiles and criminals practice their crimes. Does the internet create these types of people or is it merely an avenue for them to commit their crimes? Bill’s answer, which he has drawn from his experiences with colleagues who have worked directly with criminals and pedophiles, is that the internet doesn’t necessarily create predators but it does cultivate predators from people who in reality may not have become that way.
This theory is similar to any other addictive behavior. An example would be alcoholism. Some people are more susceptible to alcoholism than others for a variety of reasons (genetics for example). If one such person were to live walk past several bars every day on their way home from work they would be more likely to develop alcoholism. If that same person were to live in a bar-free area, they would be less likely to develop it. The same holds true for the internet. If there is someone out there surfing the internet who is susceptible to pedophilia or predatory behaviors, the availability of negative sites they visit could aid them in becoming that criminal. The same person who does not use the internet at all may not become a criminal, because the temptation wasn’t there.
This talk of criminals and pedophiles brings up another important topic to consider: the hazards that can affect the younger generations now. The biggest hazard to them is the fact that we are an interactive, media driven world. The internet, interactive television, computer games and video games have created a world view in a lot of younger people that is completely different than that of older generations. Children today who are not properly educated about the hazards that come along with the media driven world can run into huge problems, such as pedophiles or other criminals.
Bill took a closer look at MySpace to explain how these problems can come about. In the past young girls would keep a diary about their lives and write in it just about every day. This would become a record of their young lives with a variety of personal information. MySpace, Live Journal, and other such sites are basically online diaries with personal information that everyone can read.
Specifically on MySpace you enter personal information such as age, location, the school they attend or attended, even names and pictures. Once all of this information is online it is available for everyone to see. Pedophiles and predators can access this information just like other people can. MySpace has inadvertently created a way for these criminals to get a lot of information very quickly.
There are ways to stay safe on MySpace though. One way is to keep your pictures safe by patrolling them for information that could be used by criminals. Don’t post pictures that are in front of your school or a sign/business that could point to your town. Keep pictures conservative, such as a head shot only. Out of 1000 profiles, Bill estimates that less than 5% keep their photos and identities safe online.
Other ways to stay safe on MySpace include keeping your profile private to just people you know who are really who they say they are. You can also use pseudonyms online to keep yourself safe. Most importantly, and this can’t be said enough, keep all personal information personal.
The book is available online, is extremely useful and is packed with information that can help you and your children stay safer on MySpace. Dave and Bill urge listeners to look up the book and use it to keep your family safe online, in order to enjoy all of the benefits that can come with MySpace.
We would like to thank all of our guests on The CHWR Live Radio show! We feel it’s a honor and pleasure, to have them and others participate and contribute to the great content, advice and opinions on and in our CyberHood, we all live in… click the PDF to download your copy!
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