Social Networks and Internet Safety

I wish to respond to “What Are Social Networks?” from LDSMediaTalk.com, which begins

Online social networks are communities of people who share common interests and activities. Social networking sites provide the ability to create a personal profile and various ways to interact with other people, such as messaging, e-mail, video, text or voice chat, file sharing, blogging, and discussion groups. Social networking has revolutionized the way many people communicate and share information with each another. Social networking Web sites are used by millions of people everyday on a regular basis. For many people, online social networking has become a part of everyday life.

Most social networking services contain directories of categories (such as former classmates) and methods for connecting with people (usually based on some system of referral and trust).

Three very popular social networks [… Descriptions of MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn]

Source: What Are Social Networks? | LDS Media Talk, by Larry Richman, Posted July 29th, 2008

Thank you, Larry, for a great article; too many people still think that the top two uses of the Internet are genealogy and pornography; in truth, Social Networking is the number one activity online today.  Your article is well written and the embedded video is perfectly applicable.  The descriptions for each of the three sites are clear and concise.  However, your article is incomplete.

As you explain the basics of social networks, will you please add a word on safety?  If I were a parent learning about social networking and I read your article, I would be inclined to open an account on MySpace for my children.  However, MySpace is notoriously unsafe because your profile is publicly visible to the world.  It is a dark alley where child pornographers harvest victims. In a recent church meeting I attended, the bishop made it clear when he said, “My children are not allowed to have a MySpace account.”

Facebook is slightly better, because your profile is (by default) private to your contacts.  However, now that Facebook has adopted an open registration policy, villains can masquerade as your “friend” and similarly trap and abuse children. In contrast to MySpace, that bishop said, “My children are allowed to have a Facebook account, and we [the parents] regularly look at it.”  He strongly urged the parents to be aware and involved in the Internet activities of their children.  He also encouraged us to embrace the Internet as a good tool to share the Gospel.

President Hinckley, with prophetic vision, told the youth of the Church in 2000:

And don’t try to create associations through the Internet and chat rooms. They can lead you down into the very abyss of sorrow and bitterness.

Source: A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, from lds.org

In other words, use online social network tools to build and enhance the good relationships you already have: family, friends, and business associates.  Do not meet people online.  Again, the prophet counseled, “Don’t try to create associations through the Internet.”

Remember, the Internet is very much like streets of your city.  And just as you would never allow your child, whom you love, to wander down certain dark corners of your city, you would never let them wander through dangerous websites.  Out of love, we must be clear as we teach and guide our children and loved ones through this increasingly complex world.

Update: 13 Feb 2009: Corrected spelling of “Facebook” (previously “FaceBook”).

Update: 17 Jun 2011: Fixed link to talk by President Hinckley.

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One comment on “Social Networks and Internet Safety

  1. Connor says:

    Do not meet people online. Again, the prophet counseled, “Don’t try to create associations through the Internet.”

    I met my wife on Facebook. Whoops. 😛

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