Hannah Bramm
Staff Writer

Growing up our parents told us to beware of strangers and I’m sure that everyone has heard, at least once in their life, the famous phrase “stranger danger”; however people no longer seem to grasp that concept. Teenagers especially have become ignorant to the danger of talking to strangers and giving out their information over the internet.

With social media running rampant, having a few hundred Twitter or Instragram followers, or even Facebook friends that you have never met or talked to in your entire life is normal and that speaks volumes about how ignorant our society has become towards the danger of identity theft, becoming a victim of stalking, or the possibility of anyone stealing your pictures and using them for illegal or derogatory things. I will admit that I have a few Facebook friends that attend Newport Harbor but I have never personally talked to or even met a couple of them. If a stranger in a “creeper” van pulled up beside you and asked for all your information and asked to see pictures of you, any sensible person would run screaming in the other direction. So why don’t we react that way online? For all anyone knows, anybody following them on social media websites could be ex-convicts, pedophiles, or creepy middle aged men sitting in their parent’s basement.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t branch out and meet new people, however just because someone sends you a friend request on Facebook doesn’t mean they are your “friend”. In early January 2013, a woman named Mary Kay Beckman filed a lawsuit against match.com, the dating website, after she was brutally stabbed by a man she met on match.com. Last year there was a huge hoax involving Manti Te’o, a football star at Notre Dame, and a “girl” that he met online. After an in depth investigation, officials discovered that the “girl” Te’o was in love with didn’t even exist and the picture used in the scandal was of a woman who didn’t know anything about what was going on. These are just two examples of what can happen when you trust strangers too freely on the internet and in general. I understand that people cannot live their lives in a bubble and live in fear of social media, but do you really want some random person looking at pictures of you and reading all your posts online? Teenagers, as well as adults and even younger children, need to be very cautious about whom they interact with on the internet and remember that there are twisted people out there. A good to rule to follow is to only post things online that you would want your parents to see or read. If you don’t want to show your own parent, then you shouldn’t show the entire internet. Also, it’s a good idea to avoid chat rooms because that is where many sexual predators and pedophiles go to find prey. Lastly, before you follow someone on Twitter or Instagram or allow them to be your friend on Facebook, check to see if you actually know them. Just because they go to your school or you have thirty-six mutual friends, doesn’t mean that you should automatically accept them or follow them. No matter how old or mature you think you are stranger danger is a very real and present threat that everyone should keep in mind.

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