By Shanice, age 15, South Africa
We all have some sort of social networking site or application that we use to stay in touch with distant friends. But what starts off as an innocent chat could quickly turn into something much more dangerous.
Before you skip this article, let me tell you that I am not "one of those people." You know, the ones who think that social networking sites are completely evil and should be banned. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Facebook, Mxit, Twitter, Myspace, etc. It all depends on the way you use it.
Moderation Is Key
When I first got Facebook, it was like a drug to me. I spent over R200 (US$30) every month on airtime, just to check my Facebook page. And the worst part was that I only had 11 friends, most of them either celebs or posers.
But it didn't matter. I would go on Facebook just for fun. I would sit with my phone, just going through the site, until my battery died.
My point is that, sooner or later - usually sooner - you're going to become so addicted to this site/application that you're going to take some pretty heavy risks. You begin sneaking your cell phone into school, checking your phone constantly during working hours, etc.
As they say for everything in the world, moderation is key. Try to use the social application maybe once a day, twice at the most.
LOL vs. Actual Laughing Out Loud
Don't become so dependent on the app that you neglect normal day-to-day conversations for it. Chatting to someone in cyberspace and chatting to someone in real life are totally different things. People are sometimes more brave, outgoing and chatty in Cyberspace than they are in real life.
Many people have admitted that after using social apps for a long period of time, they struggle in conversations that take place in person.
When a Stranger Calls
Our parents warned us as kids not to talk to strangers. Now, we're no longer kids, but I'm sure the rules still apply.
So how do you know that the hottie you're chatting with is really who he says he is? By the fact that he has a profile pic?
What makes you think that his pic is genuine? He could have stolen the image from Google - yes, they do have images of random guys - or it could be a picture of his hot brother while he's a creeper/stalker/murderer.
Maybe I'm being paranoid. But wouldn't it be better to be safe rather than sorry? I'm not saying that you need to quit using these sites. I'm just saying you should be careful and know who's on your friend list.
In this age and day, it's amazing what you can do with technology. It's also very scary. Like I mentioned before, people are different online as compared to in person. Some people use cyberspace as a way to bully others. This bullying results in low-self esteem, low morale, depression, and in some cases, suicide.
What to Do
Like I've mentioned several times before, there are other ways to keep safe, apart from quitting these sites.
♥ Tell your parents the moment you find someone creepy contacting you. It seems like a sissy move, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
♥ Don't spend so much time on these sites that you leave homework and other important tasks for the last minute.
♥ If you're meeting someone from cyberspace for the first time, tell an adult or even a close friend where you will be, with whom, and for how long.
♥ If there is someone bothering or bullying you online, block them from contacting you.
So these are my tips for being responsible when socializing. Stay safe, and I hope this article has helped you as much as it has helped me.