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Teen Girls' Health

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Your Life Online

What you should know before you send your next text or update your status online.

How Safe Are You Online? continued...

Most teens who share information and interact with people on the Internet don't get into any trouble.

"Literally millions of kids have Facebook pages. And most kids are not having any sort of issues about these pages," says Janis Wolak, PhD. Wolak is a senior researcher at the Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire.

"If they're following the basic rules of behavior both online and offline, which most kids are, they're not likely to have big problems with unwelcome sexual harassment," Wolak says.

Teens can get sexual comments online, but usually it's the same rude kind of stuff (like catcalls) they'd hear at school or on the streets. "Most of those incidents are fairly mild," Wolak says.

When adults do try to seduce kids, it's usually in chat rooms or instant messages -- not social media sites. These predators don't hide in the shadows, either. They're usually very honest about what they're doing.

"Generally, they are quite open that they are adults looking for sexual relationships," Wolak says. "The kids who get drawn into these relationships tend to be kids who are really longing for romance and love."

Most teens are perfectly safe online. Still, there are a few things you should think about before you share any information on the Internet.

What Goes Online, Stays Online

One of the biggest problems teens have online is TMI (too much information). "At a young age, people are not very savvy about managing information. They don't really realize who their audiences are online," says Catalina Toma, PhD. She's assistant professor in the department of communication arts at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

"Another problem is that they don't know the bounds of sharing and over-sharing. I think that happens face-to-face as well as online. But online, you can't take it back," she says.

Online you have no idea who's looking at your pictures or profile. And you don't know how long your pictures are going to live in cyberspace. Pictures can stay on social networking sites or other people's computers even after you delete them.

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