Saturday, 4 August 2007

Friends

Am I the only person to feel a bit uncomfortable about young girls setting up web sites about themselves, where they open their hearts on various topics and are contacted by people who become their 'friends' ?

Nic came to talk to me this week, to tell me that her cousin had 250 friends and wasn't that rather a large number?

Her slightly awestruck voice was also tempered by puzzlement and a little bit of concern.
Our subsequent discussion clarified that her cousin had made 250 'friends' through her web-based social networking site.

On these sites, teenagers talk about all manner of things, including their inner-most thoughts and concerns. They also love to upload lots of photos of themselves and their school friends, often in recognisable school uniforms, and mentioning names explicitly.

People who read and enjoy their content, then get in contact supposedly because they recognise a kindred spirit - they become 'friends'.

I explained to Nic how this all worked and, since I have previously had discussions with both our girls about the care needed when using the Internet, I thought a refresher 'reality check' was in order.

You have no way of knowing if a person via the Internet is genuine. You cannot confirm that they are the age or sex they claim to be. It is very easy for a person to upload photos that purport to be themselves - but are in fact of someone else. For goodness sake, it is even possible to disguise your voice over an audio link!

Nic summed it up - how can you be friends if you have never met, and do not actually know each other?! She thinks she will stick to her 4 best friends and the other 8 or so class mates she gets on well with and enjoys playing with.

I think that is a good idea as well, don't you ?

(By the way, did you know I look just like Catherine Zeta Jones and speak with a sexy french accent?!)

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