Cary, N.C. — Panther Creek High School hosted a town hall meeting for parents Tuesday about the perils of Facebook and other social media, and families statewide were invited to participate via the Internet.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper joined a representative from Facebook to show parents and students how to safely use social media.
Cooper said the Internet can be a dangerous place for children because it gives predators access to personal information and allows them to pretend to be whomever they wish.
"We have had a number of cases locally (where predators) have exploited children and taken advantage of children," Cooper said.
Parent Alan Briones said he's heard horror stories about what can happen on social networking sites.
"You hear extreme cases where kids committed suicide over bullying," he said. "(Someone) hacks into somebody's Facebook or puts up a Facebook with another kid's information on it."
His 14-year-old son, Jack, however, said he's confident in the safety of what he posts online.
"I know what I put out there," Jack Briones said. "I do not put my information out."
Facebook spokeswoman Brooke Oberwetter said the site has a number of tools to keep children safe, including the ability to restrict interactions with people and block bullies.
She suggested that parents talk openly with their children about how to use the privacy settings and controls.
"The same way we talk about safely crossing the street," she said.
Still, even with privacy settings in place, Facebook can't stop friends from sharing other friends' personal information.
At Tuesday's meeting, Cooper and Oberwetter offered this Internet safety checklist for parents:
- How much time is your child spending online? Does it seem like it's too much?
- Has your child received phone calls from any strange people?
- Has your child received unusual mail or gifts?
- Has your child tried to hide online activity?
- Is your child experiencing any sudden or substantial changes in behavior?
These may be warning signs that a child is being victimized. For more on how to keep children safe online, visit Cooper's Internet Safety website.