In this day and age, parents are very cautious about their children’s safety, especially when it comes to the internet. Despite popular belief, Facebook is a very safe social networking site to use. You can protect your profile so people you are not friends with cannot see it, and you do not have to accept everyone who asks to be friends with you. It is how people use the website that can be dangerous. There have been reported cases of online theft and even kidnapping, all the consequences of accepting a friend request from a stranger.
Recently in Walpole, a case has been reported in which someone identified on Facebook as “Sarah John” befriended an area student and chatted with them, claiming to be a high school student as well. After the two shared personal information, Sarah John began asking for money, threatening to make the personal information public online. The police concluded that “Sarah John” is a fraud, but they do not know the actual identity of the person who created the Facebook account. After the case was reported, it was discovered that this person friended other high school students, prompting the District Attorney to send a letter to Superintendent Lincoln Lynch, asking him to inform students’ parents of the incident.
Though a newsletter was sent out via email, some students had not actually heard about it. A few of the advisories discussed it, however, and people had different reactions to the story. Sophomore Hannah Mullen, whose mom told her about the situation, said, “It made me rethink how safe my information is on the internet.” Internet safety can be a troubling topic, especially because of some of the stories circling around it, such as this recent situation in Walpole involving “Sarah John.”
How safe social networking sites are depends on how they are used. People who get into a troubling situation involving an online predator often end up in that specific situation because they accept a friend request from someone they do not know. It is up to the Facebook user to choose who they want to friend, and whether or not they want their profile to be protected from people they do not know – the information that people post online does not necessarily have to be made public. Also, if someone they do not know chats with them, they make the choice as to whether or not they should reply back, which is not a very smart decision considering that they have no way of telling that the person really is who they say they are.
Children hear the tedious repetition of “Don’t talk to strangers,” almost as often as they hear “Eat your vegetables,” or “Say Please.” What some people do not consider is that talking to strangers is just as risky online. The fact that you cannot actaully see the person can make it even more dangerous, as you do not know for sure if they are who they say they are. The story about Sarah John just reinforces how easy it is to fool someone when you are on the internet. Though sites like Facebook are very beneficial and fun to use to keep in touch with others, it is important to use them safely. If anything good came out of this incident, it is that teens are more aware of internet safety. The story had an impact on many students, including Mullen, who said, “I went home and denied all my friend requests.”