Social networking is changing the way the world lives. It is changing the way businesses grow and how information is gathered. Social bonds are forming between people thousands of miles apart who otherwise would have never met. All this is happening because of social networking giants like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Unfortunately, social networking has a dark side that is filled with paedophiles, stalkers and abusers.
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One of the top issues facing social networking is the ability for others to interact on a very personal level. Facebook has a policy that you must be 13 years or older to join; however, children simply change their age when signing up. People who then connect with that child assume they are older. Paedophiles have targeted social networking sites; the North American Man/Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, has created pages on Facebook to connect with others who support paedophilia. These groups provide a place for members to exchange or sale child pornography and exchange information.
According to a report done by Cox Communications in 2009, 72 per cent of teens in the United States have an account on a social networking site. That amount is contrasted by the 42 per cent who have profiles that are viewable by anyone. In the same survey, 50 per cent used their real age, 62 per cent uploaded photos of themselves, 45 per cent gave out their school and location and 14 per cent listed their cell phone numbers. The survey, which was done in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also states that 9 per cent of children provide local hangout locations.
These numbers show that children are becoming more involved with social networking sites. Many of these children and teens have let their guards down and see online friends as people they can trust. Children are easily persuaded, and paedophiles use this trait to become involved with the child. Parental involvement should be persistent; monitoring the child's online usage can help prevent future problems.
Stalking has become a serious issue on social networking sites. Social networking gives abusive partners a way to monitor their former or current partners, send upsetting or threatening messages and locate where they work or live. WomensAid, a domestic abuse hotline in Ireland, reported that social networking abuse has grown significantly. Once stalkers have a target, they use a technique called "doxing." Doxing involves collecting images of the person, searching the Web for related accounts, e-mailing friends and portraying themselves as long-lost friends. The goal is to get phone numbers, addresses and work locations of the victim. Stalkers can then use this information to harm or steal from their victims.
Social Networking Disorders
The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP. released information in May 2011 that social networking can cause a form of depression in young people. The term "Facebook Depression" is the new social networking disorder, which occurs when children and teens spend an extensive amount of time on social networking sites and then exhibit signs of depression. The Academy suggests that some children feel envious of their online friends. Children who already have a low self-esteem are more likely to feel the effects of "Facebook Depression." Constant striving to be popular and keeping others interested in their status can cause an enormous amount of stress. The AAP recommends limiting and monitoring the time a child spends on social networking sites.
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