The popularity of blogging has become nearly epidemic in the past few years. Today, it seems like everyone you know has a blog. It can be a great way to keep in touch with friends, meet new people, share your interests, talents, and emotions. However, with the increase in crimes associated with internet use, safety is an issue that must be considered. As entertaining as they are, blogs can carry a serious risk if safety guidelines are not followed. The very personal nature of a blog sets it up to attract child predators and other lowlifes that you may never have come into contact with offline. The FBI is aware of the threat and has issued a warning to bloggers to be more careful. Bill Temple, special agent in charge of the Little Rock FBI told TodaysTHV.com reporter, Melissa Dunbar, "The Internet is a wonderful thing for educational purposes and a lot of other things, but it's open to everyone and we live in a dangerous world where not everyone has good intentions."
He estimated that every year one in five kids is contacted by a predator online. Those are sobering statistics. You never think it can happen to you but I bet the teens who have been hurt because they were not careful online never thought it would happen to them either.
Blogging can still be a great hobby, despite the horrors of today's reality, but you need to be smart about it. Most authorities recommend not posting any photos of yourself online. If you don't want to follow that guideline, at least be very careful about the ones that you do post. Make sure you aren't wearing clothing with writing that identifies your school or hometown. Keep local landmarks to a minimum.
Never, ever list your last name, phone number or address. Posting personal contact information will make it way too easy for a predator to find you and exploit the information you have so trustingly posted on your blog. Avoid posting information about where you will be after school or the place you work. It is okay to post your thoughts on your life in general or personal viewpoints but try not to be too detailed about the specifics.
If you have doubts about what you are posting, don't post it. There is a world of information to keep you writing for years without jeopardizing your safety. Keep a private journal on your computer or a handwritten paper journal (yes, they still make those) for thoughts and information that are not appropriate for the web. Remember that blog posts can be read by anyone. Once you post something online you cease to have control over how it is used. College admissions officers and employers are even beginning to screen blogs of potential candidates to determine whether or not they are someone they want to associate with. You could inadvertently damage your reputation by posting something that does not truly represent who you are. As social networks gain popularity, the list of people using blogs in a way that was not intended will only grow. If you are posting something that you would never in a million years share with someone who knows you in the real world, rethink it. You could pay the price later on.