Keeping Teens Safe in the Social Networking Era

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Caution tape across computer

Teens in dating relationships are being controlled, abused and threatened via technology at alarming rates.

  • One fifth of teens have had a partner who used social networking sites to harass them or put them down.
  • One quarter of teens in a relationship say that they have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner via cell phone or texting.
  • Many teens have been impersonated online, have had their e-mail accounts hacked, or have had private photos of them posted online by a person they cared about.

(Statistics cited above are from Tech Abuse in Teen Relationships, [PDF, 180.6 KB] a 2007 study by Liz Claiborne and TRU.)

When working with teens, it is important for youth workers to remember that nothing online is completely private. Even social network pages that are set to “private” may still be accessible to others. Tweens and teens (and adults, too) need to think about what they share online, how it represents them, and who might potentially see it.

Here are some things you can advise the youth you work with to do:

  • Set their online profiles to private on sites such as MySpace and Facebook. (If they don’t, anyone who visits that site, including college admissions offices, teachers, family, potential employers and even stalkers can see their personal information.)
  • Be careful about posting information about their family, location, friends or coworkers.
  • Get someone’s consent before posting a  link, video or a picture that features that person.
  • Think in advance about which topics are appropriate to address via social networks and which topics are not.
  • Decide what they won’t allow to be posted on their social networking accounts, such as personally identifying information or content that is malicious in nature.
  • Learn what is already on the Web about them and their families, because if they can find it, someone else can too. Teens should make a habit of searching the Web for their own personal information and photos. Some places to start: Google, Yahoo, Classmates.com, YouTube and Flickr. They should be sure also to look for groups and places where they might have a connection: school, clubs, jobs, faith community, sports teams, and community and volunteer groups.

Help Someone Today
If you or someone you know has been the victim of dating violence, free and confidential help is available 24 hours a day through the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, 7 days a week at 866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453. Peer advocates are also available via live chat from 5:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. (Eastern time).

Confidential help is also available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If you need help or know someone who may need someone to talk to, please 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

To learn more about stalking and technology and to get safety resources, including a technology safety plan for victims of dating and domestic violence, visit the Safety Net: National Safe and Strategic Technology Project website or call (202) 543-5566.

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