Another popular activity for teenagers and adults is creating a personal page on one of the many social networking web sites. Many sites offer this service but the most popular are www.MySpace.com and www.Facebook.com. Each site basically provides the same experience but each has its individual characteristics along with rules and regulations. The way it works is users register and create a personal page called a profile on the site. Profiles can include pictures, personal information, opinions, online journals called blogs, music, videos and basically anything else a person feels represents them and their personality.
Users then browse other profiles looking for people with similar interests or locating people they went to school with etc. Once found, they make contact by requesting "friend status". When accepted, a link is created on each other's page to their new friend's page. Users commonly communicate through e-mail or chat services provided by the site as well. They also visit each other's page to leave messages and meet each other's friends and the social networking cycle continues into one big weblog community. The general rule of thumb is the more friends a user has the higher status they enjoy. With MySpace it displays the number of times it has been visited, which also reflects status.
Replacing the need for face-to-face interaction, social networking has become a new addiction for many who spend hours cruising through endless profiles making connections with old friends or making new ones. Many amateur musicians use this medium to reach their fans and provide music for download eliminating normal distribution costs and allowing the potential for a larger worldwide fan base.
In addition, www.MySpace.com has also made an attempt to crack down on predators by implementing restrictions for adults having access to underage user profiles. Although with no age verification adults can easily pose as the age group they are targeting. Many social networking web sites list safety tips for users to review and typically a safety link is available at the bottom of most webpages.
Social Networking profiles can be set to a private mode which only allows people to view it that have been accepted as a friend by the profile owner. This is default in www.Facebook.com. This prevents random users from viewing it and is a great safety feature for protection. All profiles should be set to private but keep in mind this prevents parents from viewing their child's profile as well unless they have a profile themselves and have been added as a friend.
This is very dangerous because when children and teens are involved in this type of virtual reality world they are literally blind to who they are dealing with. They are mixed into a virtual world interacting with adults and potentially some predators. There are also several adult areas in Second Life including "rape rooms."
There are also virtual worlds targeted to grade school children. Www.weeworld.com is one of those sites that allow very young children to make avatars referred to as a "wee mee." They use their avatar to play with other kids in the virtual world. A potential for danger is very prevalent in this world as well. Similar sites such as www.whyville.net and www.clubpenguin.com offer a safer environment.