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Think before you click, site warns teenagers

THINK before you click is the strong message of an internet safety campaign designed to protect teenagers from overexposing themselves on social networking sites.

There is growing concern about the personal information and pictures being shared on sites such as Bebo and MySpace, often available to an unrestricted, worldwide audience. The importance of using nicknames, or at least not a full name, and being aware of how pictures can be manipulated are among the tips offered on the new Watch Your Space website.

"Once you upload a picture to the internet you have lost control of it. It can be copied, altered and displayed in different contexts without your consent. Stay in control by only uploading pictures that you are happy for everyone to see," the site warns. Much of the advice on the site, which was developed by the National Centre of Technology im Education, is offered by teenagers themselves.

Launching the campaign yesterday, Education Minister Mary Hanafin said the sites had led to an explosion of creativity, but young people also needed to be in control. "Disclosing too much personal information can put young people at increased risks."

The minister decribed some of the content on the sites as ranging from "careless to shocking and can include obscenity and bullying".