Pew Internet and American Life Project conducted a study to compare things teens posted on social networks in 2006 versus what they posted in 2012. The survey found that teens have become more likely to share certain types of information that make them more prone to identity theft, sexual predator stalking, and cyberbullying.
Facebook had 12 million active users in 2006 and reached 943 million active users in 2012. The continual increase of user growth has correlated directly with the amount of shared information.
Since 2006, teens between the ages of 12-17 are more frequently posting private information on social networks. Specifically, teens are more likely to post photos, hometown, school name, email address, and cell phone numbers than ever before (compared to 2006):
Photos 15% more
Home City 43% more
School name 16% more
Cell phone 900% more
Email address 83% more
In addition to posting basic information, teens shared more personal and revealing information in 2012:
Real Name 92% more
Interests 84% more
Date of Birth 82% more
Relationship Status 62% more
Current Location 16% more
With these changes to what is socially acceptable to share online, there is danger. Although relationship status, interests, cell phone, birthdate, and school name may seem like harmless bits of information, it provides enough for identity thieves and online predators to exploit, groom, and stalk users.
You can never be too careful: even if profile settings are set to private, Facebook’s Graph Search allows users to find people based on interests, home city, school, etc. You can search for the names of kids that go to your high school or junior high.
Parents should speak with children about internet safety and the dangers of over-sharing. Better still, parents should strongly consider monitoring a teen’s posts, friends, and pictures on social networks with Facebook monitoring software such as Safe Eyes, Net Nanny Social or PureSight Owl.
Kids are more likely to get into trouble online by accident and only occasionally by intention.
Note: This article and the opinions expressed here are from Russ Warner, Internet safety expert and CEO of ContentWatch, makers of parental control software Net Nanny. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter (@russwarner).