By now, all parents should be well aware of the potential dangers of cyberbullying and Internet predators on social networking sites. But social networking can also keep our kids safe in ways previously unavailable. Law enforcement is discovering how to use Facebook and MySpace as a way to identify, prevent, and protect kids from crimes.
Many police departments now have a presence on Facebook or MySpace. By using social networking to establish a relationship with the community, police can reach out to at-risk youth and provide a teen-friendly avenue for reporting dangerous or illegal activity. Teens who know about a local gang fight that is about to happen, for example, probably wouldn't call the local police department but might find it more comfortable to tip off police through the familiar medium of Facebook or MySpace.
Kids often plan activities via social networking or use their wall as an outlet for their private feelings. By being in the social networking loop, police (along with parents, teachers, and other authority figures) can be more aware of what's really going on in the lives of our kids and stop youth suicides, intervene in possible fights or school shootings, deter bullying, prevent gang-related activity, and prosecute the distributors of child pornography.
Of course parents should continue to safeguard against the legitimate dangers of Facebook and monitor their child's social networking activity, but they shouldn't lose sight of the positive ways Facebook can and is being used to connect our kids with the police and teachers that will protect them. By incorporating Facebook as a crime prevention tool, Facebook is becoming safer for kids of all ages.
-Article Contributed by Jenny Evans