Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Social Networking Sites: Are They Safe?

This is a guest post by SG Katie! Please make her feel welcome. If you'd like to submit a guest post, please contact us at!

There are so many social networking sites out there: Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, and Myspace are among the most popular.

So many young people are keep to use these sites. Maybe it's as simple as wanting to socialize with their friends. However, have you thought about the personal information you use to sign up? How safe is this realy?

After doing my own research, this frightening headline came up after I was already a member of the popular site Facebook:

Details of 100m Facebook users collected and published (BBC)

After reading that article, how does it make you feel? Are your personal details as protected as you thought?

Facebook user photographs can even be used in advertisements. This can be done without your consent. Take a look at the privacy you have selected on your profile and change it so you are comfortable with how your information is being used.

Have you ever had an experience where someone made a clone of your profile and pretended to be you? Celebrities have this happen to them all the time. People pretend to be popular celebrities on any popular network, but this could happen to innocent victims like you.

There are so many young people out there dying to use this network. They lie about their ages in order to meet the minimum age requirements. But is lying about your age really worth it? Sometimes, can age limits be a good thing? It's a bit like driving a car. In the UK, the minimum age is 17; in the USA, it's 16. These rules and guidelines are there to ensure the safety of all civilians.

A Facebook Victim

From my own experience of what I thought would be just a way to socialize, I found myself to be a victim. Once it was new and fun to talk to old friends on Facebook. Then things changed. Friends started to get addicted to Facebook. If you had an argument with one of them, you'd find it plastered all over Facebook for everyone to see. Imagine sitting at your computer and thinking, "Right, that is aimed at me."

People use Facebook on an everyday basis. That's how addicted my friends have become. What used to be meant for socializing and catching up with old friends has turned out to cause arguments and friendships lost! Sadly, Facebook and other social networking sites are used for things such as cyber bullying, clone profiles, personal details taken without consent, photos published without consent, arguments, and intimidation.

Online Grooming

So many young people talk to people online that they don't know personally. You think you are talking to another kid or something. Have you really thought, "Do I know who I am talking to?" Sometimes, these people are not who they say they are. Online sites can be used to groom youngsters and teenagers. Some of these children/teenagers have been killed. If you are talking to people you don't know, consider that you may be putting yourself in great danger!

If your parents put up parental controls on your computer, they are trying to keep you safe. My parents did the same for me when I was growing up, and I thank them for that!

I hope this gives you some insight to the dangers of these online sites. Remember, stay safe!

What kinds of online experiences have you had using social networking sites, positive and negative? Do you think that catching up with old friends is still the main purpose? What common sense tips do you have for staying safe online? We'd like to hear your thoughts!

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Surveys

Recently we received a message from Sierra, age 18:

"I just have a quick suggestion. I check SmartGirl every day to see if you have a new survey up. I feel like you almost never change them. I enjoy taking surveys and polls and it would be great if you had more of them. I know it must be difficult to cultivate all the data, but it'd be great if you could have a new survey up every week or something, it would make the site much more entertaining and keep it moving everyday. Thanks for listening."

Although we typically update Quick Polls, Advice Poll, and Would You Rather...? every week, it's true that we put up the long surveys less often. Part of this is exactly what Sierra says, that it takes a lot more time to put together and to analyze the data!

Still, it's really important to us that SmartGirls get to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. We'd like to have surveys more often. We're listening, and we'll do our best to make the survey section more active over the coming month. This means anything from keeping surveys up even after we post the results, including surveys from the archives, as well as adding brand new surveys.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments here!