We all want to have fun, but we want to do it SAFELY. We see and hear stories of tragedy related to women and young teens in the news every week... many of which could have so easily been avoided.

The ROCK SAFE program was created to use social engagement technology to help educate our friends on how to be safe online and offline in their social networking activities. In particular, ROCK SAFE addresses several areas:

  1. How you can party safe while still having fun.

  2. What you can do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, and what options you have to get help.

  3. How you can protect your identity online and offline to avoid unwanted attention from individuals who might pursue or stalk you inappropriately.

  4. What young male and female teens can do if inappropriately approached online by a potential predator.

The Bridge Over Troubled Waters is a non-profit crisis center based in the Houston area that helps individuals suffering from relationship abuse with counseling and resources. Through our association with The Bridge, MyCityRocks provides its members ROCK SAFE tips on an ongoing basis through our newsletters and Web site. We have also launched a series of ROCK SAFE concerts, combining music with community education in a way that really ROCKS.

Avoiding danger online: Keeping your online profile and blog SAFE!

by Cliff Kurtzman, and sponsored by The Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Creating a profile on an online networking or dating site can be a fun way to make new friends and share with others the things in life which you are passionate about. And creating a blog can enable you to share your experiences with others as well.

At the same time, it is important to remember that normally most anyone can read your profile or blog. Everyone who views your profile or blog may not be a nice person. Making information about yourself public can provide an opening to stalkers, predators, and others who might use the information which you provide to cause harm to you or those who you care about.

Remember that knowledge is power. Each time you post information about yourself, think about whether or not someone could use that information to cause you harm.

Here are some recommendations for keeping your online profile and blog safe:

  1. Unless you are a public figure or you are blogging in a business context, never post your last name on your profile, and don't include it in the email address you use for social purposes either. Posting your last name makes it much easier for stalkers to find you. Don't put your last name in your screen name. Don't put your last name in your profile URL. Also make sure you are using an email address that doesn't give away your last name.

  2. Don't post other personal information such as your address, phone number, email address or IM screen names either. If you meet someone and want them to have that information, then it is easy enough to give it to them... but don't post it publicly so anyone can have access to it.

  3. Don't post information about where you work, hang out regularly, or go to school, particularly if you are of high school age or younger. We know you take pride in your school and company, but posting that kind of information can make it easier for stalkers to find you.

  4. Don't post photographs of your children, and certainly NEVER disclose their names. If a stalker or predator knows the name of your child and what they look like, it makes it MUCH easier for them to gain their trust when approaching them in order to cause them or you harm.

  5. Review all of your photos as well as your text. We all want others to think of us as being sexy and desirable. Still, it is important to think about the messages being given off in the photographs which you post, and whether those photographs might encourage others to engage in behaviors which you might not welcome. It is also important to review each photograph you post to make sure it doesn't accidentally disclose any personal information... for example, a photograph of you standing in front of your house might inadvertently disclose the street number of your dwelling or other information that would make it much easier for someone to find you.

  6. Don't mislead people into thinking you are older or younger than you really are. If you do, it could encourage others to try to interact with you in a manner that is inappropriate.

  7. Don't post things that could embarrass you later, or which others could use to blackmail you. It is so easy for anyone to do a screen grab on your page, and then store it away for use at a later date, even long after you have deleted it from your profile. Remember that someone that is your best friend today could turn out to be your worst enemy tomorrow.

Whenever posting personal information about yourself, ask yourself what you gain by making that information public, and whether the benefits of disclosing the information outweigh any potential risks. Talking about your favorite music album would usually be pretty safe, while disclosing where you hang out every Thursday night would carry greater risk. Only you can decide what risks are acceptable for yourself.