What is social networking?

The benefits of social networking include being able to stay connected with friends and family. This is particularly beneficial for socially or physically isolated individuals, such as those with a physical disability or those from rural or remote areas. For many children and young people (as well as some adults), social networking engagement is no different to their offline interactions with people.

When online, users can identify who they share information with and what level of information and interaction they have with others. However, they can't control what their friends might do with their information, which may be shared more broadly than anticipated. For example, friends may copy and share photos from each other's social networking sites without permission.

What are the risks of social networking?

For children and young people, the risks in using social networking sites include:

  • sharing too much information—photos from a party might be okay for close friends to see but can become an issue if shared more widely
  • not protecting personal information—account details and location information can be used inappropriately by others to find young people or access their online accounts
  • treating online friends as real friends—it's easy for people to lie online, including those who are seeking children and young people for more than a social relationship.

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