Would you give a random stranger your telephone number and address? Unlikely, but lots of people freely give away their personal information online.

Something important to remember about social networks is that although privacy settings are a great tool, you can’t apply a privacy setting to another human being. If we share information with someone else, it’s up to them what they then do with it. When we share information online we don’t really control it anymore because someone else can copy, change and use it for themselves. 

Why the small print matters

For lots of social networks you have to sign up terms and conditions. Because there are usually so many of them, people don't read them as they just want to get on with social networking. Some of these terms and conditions might include the right for a social network or third party to use your content. Our advice is know what you're signing up for and don't share what you can't afford to lose.

Consequences in the future

When it comes to social networking it’s important to understand that whatever we post online can get stuck in the World Wide Web for a really long time. What we do and say online now can have consequences for our future.

Children (and sometimes adults) are often shocked when the Virtually S@fe team tell them that many employers now carry out online searches for job candidates. Our advice to children is always make sure that the trace you leave online is a positive one. Many social networks have information for parents so each site is worth checking out. Here’s some basic information about four popular sites.

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