With these benefits, however, also come some risks. Teens on SNS may share personal information which leaves them vulnerable to people who want to harm them. They may also share inappropriate or illegal content which endangers future academic or employment opportunities. Understanding the various ways content can be shared can help trusted adults talk to teens about ways to stay safer while using SNS.
Although not every social networking site has all of these components, many of them add more and more features in an effort to keep users on their sites for longer periods of time. Instead of opening multiple applications, users can rely on one SNS to serve all their communications needs.
- Blogs – These online journals or diaries are becoming a common part of many SNS.
- Comment Walls – A popular feature of most SNS that allows users to communicate through comments left on each others’ pages.
- E-mail – Most SNS have an e-mail feature through which users can communicate privately or with select groups.
- Friends Lists – These contact lists are usually comprised of people a child knows offline, but also include friends of friends and others they have only met online.
- Instant Messaging - Some SNS, such as Facebook, have made chat features available to users.
- Pictures and Videos – Most SNS allow users to post a profile picture. Many also allow users to post photos and videos to an online “album.”
- Status Updates - Users post these short sentences to let the people on their friends list know their actions, feelings, and thoughts.
When talking to your children about communicating safely on SNS, do not forget to include virtual worlds. Although the main purpose of virtual worlds is not networking, they often have some of the same communications functions as SNS. For example, in the virtual world Club Penguin, users can instant message each other. Before letting your child sign up for a virtual world, know how and with whom they may be communicating.