Social Networking Web Warning

Recently, a new area of concern for the safety of America's children and teens has emerged and risen to the forefront for parents, educators, and law enforcement officials. The amazing advances widely heralded in technology and telecommunications, which afford us wonderful instructional and cultural opportunities for our kids, may also put them at risk for exploitation and harm.

Social networking refers to a category of Internet sites which helps to connect existing friends and establish new ones. These sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, offer an interactive network of photos, blogs (online journals), user profiles, groups, and e-mail. While these types of sites are generally blocked from Northside ISD computers, children often access these sites from home.

Key dangers to such sites include these facts:

  • Users can create any identity they wish, with these sites doing little to verify the details. Teens who believe they are connecting with other teens may not be. Kids who were raised with the admonition of "not talking to strangers" may now be routinely chatting with them in an unsupervised setting.
  • Many teens share large amounts of personally identifiable information on such sites, which can put them at risk from child predators. As stated by Don Tapscott, author of Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, "Kids are very savvy about the technology, but I'm not sure they totally understand the implications of a billion people being able to see them doing whatever is posted."

The purpose of this website is to post a number of online resources in one place where parents can become better informed about potential dangers in this new arena and also learn of advisable strategies for communicating caution to our youth. In navigating this site, the first tab above shares information about social networking sites in the news, as well as some personal accounts from parents and teens. The second tab points to online safety resources for parents and guardians.

The Internet continues to be a wonderful resource for education, and our District's instructional use of technology includes numerous safeguards, limitations, and parameters for student safety. As we have observed teens' rising interest in technology as a part of their personal lives as well, we believe that communicating to our District parents with regard to potential risks and possible safeguards is a responsible step in protecting our students.