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Why should I restrict my child's use of location-based social networks?

Shawn Edgington
Pediatrics
Here's the problem with location-based social networks as they relate to children. When you "check in" (check ins include your profile picture and the address of your exact location), you're instantly telling those who are members of the same network exactly where you are. Friends, ex friends, strangers, and bad people will know where you are, right down to how many feet you are standing away from them, if they're in your network.

The last thing you want your fourteen-year-old to do is "check in," instantly letting strangers know exactly where she is and who she's with and what she looks like (her picture will be posted next to her check in). Talk to your children about "check ins" and explain why they won't be allowed. If they have a Facebook or Twitter account, they already have the ability to check in by using the application that's already been updated on their cell phone.

Alarmingly, children enjoy "checking in" wherever they are; while they're at home, at school, or out having fun. By doing this, your child is letting potentially dangerous intruders into their world, essentially telling them that they're not at home, so it's OK to rob their house, or worst-case scenario, they end up being taken away from home or from the location where they've "checked in." The news is reporting more and more serious crimes that are being committed from information gained by updates that have been posted on location-based social networking sites. The bad news is that these types of incidents are growing as the number of people using this technology increases.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness about the capability of location-based technology and the risks associated with it. The dangers continue to grow as more and more people "check in" without thinking about the potential consequences. Online predators of all types use the information from location-based networks to take advantage of others.

It's very important for every family member to make sure their privacy settings are correctly set. I suggest you either eliminate or restrict the use of these applications for your teens. Even if your account is set to private, never announce to your network that you're leaving on vacation for the week or post similar updates that tell your "friends" that you're not at home. If you do, you're leaving yourself exposed and open to potentially dangerous situations.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.