Teens catching on to risks of MySpace, Facebook, study says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Teenagers are taking precautions to protect themselves against online predators after numerous reports warned of the risks associated with social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, according to a recent study.

Two-thirds of teens with profiles on blogs or networking sites have implemented some sort of restricted access to their information, the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported April 18. Such restrictions include passwords or limiting access to approved lists, the study found.

"I think teens are getting the message," Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist with Pew and coauthor of the report, told Scripps News. "A lot of teens have been bombarded by the message that social networks are not safe. This is something teens are living with and swimming with every day, and that's reflected in the steps they're taking."

Fewer than one-third of teens use their last names on profiles, and about that number include e-mail addresses, Pew found. Only 2 percent post their cell phone numbers.

"Teens, particularly girls and younger teens, have gotten the message about protecting themselves on social networks, but the fun of these networks is the ability to share yourself with others on them," Lenhard told the Associated Press.

Most teenagers use the sites to stay in touch with existing friends, the study said, though some use their profiles to make new acquaintances. They post photos and an array of information about their lives. One-third of teens reported that they had been contacted by strangers online, but most did not feel uncomfortable with the encounter.

Based on a survey of about 1,000 teens and their parents, Pew found that 45 percent of teens who use the Internet do not have profiles at all.

Some teens also are realizing that college recruiters and employers are surfing profiles, so they are starting to consider the consequences of what they post online.

Published, May 2007