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Social Media Safety Tips for Teenagers

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

Social media safety for teenagers is a serious concern, and a girl's homicide in Maine shows us why. Nichole Cable, 15, was killed in an alleged fake kidnapping plot that went terribly wrong.

Cable's alleged killer, who used a fake Facebook profile, convinced her to meet him at the end of a street to score some marijuana, according to state police. But instead, the man duct-taped her and threw her in the back of a truck.

The man told others that he intended to stage Cable's kidnapping, and then "rescue" her in hopes of becoming a hero, The Associated Press reports. But when he went back to check on Cable, she was dead.

The suspect in Cable's killing is just 20 years old. He's charged with murder and kidnapping, according to the AP. Cable's devastated parents are now hoping to educate others about social media safety to prevent this from ever happening again.

To that end, here are a few tips for teenage girls -- and anyone else, really -- to stay safe on the Internet:

  1. Be careful with friend requests from those you don't know. While social media is great for connecting with new people, it is always rather suspicious when a complete stranger friends you on your personal account. Be wary of this and always play it safe. The person could be a spam bot, or worse, a criminal with a dangerous agenda posing as someone else.
  2. Check your privacy settings. A lot of the time, the default privacy settings on many social media sites are left at giving you the most public exposure. This not only makes you vulnerable to identity theft, especially if you are divulging more personal details on your page, but it can also be potentially dangerous.
  3. Limit personal contact information. Even if your account is protected and private, be careful when posting information like your personal email, your phone number, and especially your home address. If you are in touch with a friend or family member on a site and want to share this information with them, do it directly via a phone call, a text, or an email.
  4. Location services should be approached with caution. Apps like Foursquare or Facebook check-ins are a fun way to let others know where you are, but they also invite unwanted visitors and can leave you susceptible to being tracked. This kind of cyberstalking can easily lead to real-life stalking.
  5. Be very cautious about arranging any meet-ups with people online. Meeting new people through other online friends, or on a dating website, is common nowadays, but the initial meet-up should still be approached with caution. Make sure it's in a public place that gets a lot of foot traffic. Meeting up during daylight hours is preferable when it comes to safety.

As Nichole Cable's tragic death suggests, teenagers especially may need to use more caution and be more skeptical in their social media encounters. For more practical tips, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Online Safety for Kids.

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