Guide to Social Networking, part 1

Published 12/05/2004 16:22   |    Updated 05/03/2008 16:59
What is Social Networking?

Social networking websites function like an online community of Internet users. Sites like Bebo, Facebook and Nimble attract thousands of Internet users from all age groups and allow members to communicate with friends and if they choose, strangers online.


Depending on the website in question, members share a variety of interests and hobbies and they can use the site to chat, message, email, upload and download photos and videos, blog, discuss and share information.



How does it work?


In general, social networking services, such as Bebo, Facebook and Nimble, allow users to create a profile of themselves. When you create a profile on a social networking site, you usually upload some basic details about yourself, for example, your profile user name, where you're from and what music and interests you like.


You can then start to meet friends online. For example, if John lists Mary as a friend, then Mary would have to approve John's 'friend request' before they are listed as friends. Social networks usually have privacy controls that allow the user to choose who can view their profile or contact them.

When you create a profile on a social networking site, you put yourself on the social networking map. You can use the site to:

  • Look up old friends or make new ones.
  • Share music, photos and videos.
  • Join groups based on interests such as politics, hobbies or favourite TV shows.
  • Change passwords regularly; every 100 days is recommended.
  • Find jobs or just simply chat.



What risks does social networking pose?


Social networking sites because of their nature, require a certain amount of personal information to work. When deciding how much information to reveal, people may not exercise the same degree of caution they would when meeting someone in person.

Social networking websites, are particularly popular with young people who may be exposed to risks while using them. Some of those risks are: online bullying, disclosure of private information, cyber-stalking, access to age-inappropriate content and at the most extreme, online predators.

The number of adults using social networking sites has increased and they too can be at risk. Potential dangers for adults include: loss of privacy and identity theft and even cyber-bullying and stalking.



See also: Top tips for safely using Social Networking sites.

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