Social Media Mayhem

When Protection Trumps Privacy

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Over the past few years, there’s no denying social media has helped reunite old friends, connect long distance relatives and even raise funds for charities. LOL! However, lurking within an online world filled with “friend requests” and “followers” are threats to the basic safety and happiness of our kids and teens. In order to protect our wired kids, we parents must exercise tough love in determining when our child joins the social network revolution and remain hypervigilant once they do.

AN ABUNDANCE OF YOUTH

Reports estimate a whopping 50 percent of Americans have a profile on one or more social networking sites. Today’s top social media tools are Facebook (540 million users worldwide), Twitter (98 million users), MySpace (67 million users) and LinkedIn (41 million users), with new sites like Google+ continually entering the marketplace.

But it’s the age, not proliferation, of users that concerns child advocates. Sites like those listed above clearly prohibit registration of anyone under age 13 as a way to protect children. Unfortunately, that age limit is routinely circumvented. A May 2011 Consumer Reports survey found that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age. Shockingly, 5 million are 10 years old or younger.

ONLINE SOCIAL DANGERS

So what’s the big deal? Social networking is just a harmless way for adolescents to connect with each other, right? Not so fast, says retired FBI special agent Jeff Rinek, Rescue resident and founder of Parental Options, a safety software company dedicated to preventing online child victimization.

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