In connection with the settlement of its consumer fraud investigation of Facebook, the New York State Attorney General’s Office issued advice to parents to take preventive steps to keep their children safe from sexual predators and issued tips on “How to Occupy Space on Social Networking Websites Safely”:
* Be cautious about sharing your personal information online that can be used to locate you offline. This includes your screen name, personal photos, hobbies, social security numbers, address, phone number, bank or credit card number. Remember, websites for underage users are not permitted to request personal information without a parent’s permission.
* Do not share information online that you would not share offline; there are no “Takebacks.” Once information is posted online, it cannot be removed. If deleted or modified, older versions continue to exist online. Share or information that is appropriate for the public. Remember, colleges and potential employers may rely on a social networking website to check you out.
* Use Privacy Settings to restrict access. Social networking websites provide a variety of privacy settings that can restrict access to personal information. These settings block unknown individuals from breaking into your account and misusing your profile and information.
* Install safeguarding programs with monitoring or filtering capabilities. Your online service provider may offer these services. Setting up a monitoring product is like a having a camera in the corner of your local bank – it can help collect evidence for law enforcement and trace a predator, if necessary.
* Watch out for unsolicited messages and emails. Do not respond to emails or download attachments you are not expecting. Some viruses can “spoof” the name and email address of friends and fool users into an unwanted online relationship.
* Beware of inappropriate or threatening online behavior.Risky online behavior can lead to cyber crimes. It may start with an online stranger following you into chat rooms, breaking into your account, abusing your personal information, sending you sexual solicitations or signing you up for porn sites and IM. Pay attention to these predators. Most social websites do not have the capability to verify ages or information of their users.
* If in doubt, report it! If you believe that a predator is communicating with you or your child, you must report it. In every case where a child is molested or killed by an Internet sexual predator, law enforcement find messages sent to the predator by parents threatening to report them. Do not hesitate to report it.