These youth live in a world when all its information is just a mouse click away. They also live in a society in which children have been placed on a pedestal instead of simply doing what they're told, as in past generations.
All these factors mold the characters of today's young people, who are attracted to chatrooms and social networking sites such as MySpace.com. Contrary to what parents might believe, Miller says all social networking sites are not bad, and even the one that draws the most controversy--MySpace.com--is working hard to police itself.
There are myriad social networking sites available on the Web, some of which don't link teens but link people in adult social groups, or those engaged in engineering, those who are teachers, those who work in the computer industry, those who attended the same colleges, etc. For these people who are adept with and attracted to social networking, traditional Web sites that only provide information don't hold much fascination. They enjoy sites that allow them to exchange notes, information, photos, ideas, videos, music and more with others they care about.
MySpace may have received its notoriety because of how it began, Miller says, created by rock bands to foster a party atmosphere. Facebook, on the other hand, was created to allow college students to keep in touch with one another throughout the years. Many social networking sites, however, expand from their initial missions as they grow.
Miller noted, however, that there are several pitfalls that unsuspecting young people don't see. Chief among these is, he said, "Most people lie about themselves on MySpace." What people see isn't really what they get, and there's rampant room for deception and exploitation.
Another challenge is that young people often reveal too much about themselves, even when they don't intend to. Sometimes posting one's hobbies, school major, class schedule, interests, generally where they live, etc. is almost as informative to stalkers as including an address.
Another form of deception on social networking sites, he says, is when young people post multiple profiles online. Sometimes they'll create a clean, conservative profile for parents to find, only to have a much more revealing profile available for their friends to see. The downside to lies, exaggerations and hidden profiles on such sites, however, does backfire for many. That's because employers often routinely Google prospective employees just to see what turns up, in the hope of weeding out those with skeletons in their closets.
"We Google everyone that we interview for a job," says Miller, noting it's amazing what can be found. One major challenge is that questionable information can dog employees for years, even after the original files have been deleted (because some do screen captures). In short, he offered some good advice that could benefit everyone, which I have paraphrased:
Don't waste time on the Internet simply looking up trivia -- pulling you away from more valuable pursuits. Understand what should, and should not be posted. If the information is about someone else, don't post it. Always control who has access to your personal information. Find good causes to promote, support and become engaged in. Pay attention to the warnings posted on social networking sites, they are there for a reason. There is only one "you." Don't be careless with yourself.