By KATHERINE HERBST

Every day, I hear conversations about MySpace.com or AOL in the halls, and I listen to kids laugh about funny pictures that they had posted on such sites. This may seem funny to some kids, but for me, it’s terrifying.

Most kids don’t even realize that with the click of the “send” button, their conversation is posted for the world to see. When you have to go, you click “X,” deleting the conversation. But the conversation isn’t gone — an Internet hacker could find it.

Agent Holly Hubert of the Buffalo branch of the FBI says that all it takes to find another person on the Internet is a brief understanding of them. On sites like MySpace, pictures and personal information in your blogs can help hackers.

But many kids feel safe, saying that they have blocked all users with the exception of their “buddies” from viewing their account. They believe that using these blocks will keep them safe from online dangers. Unfortunately, most hackers are experts at getting past blocks and other obstacles.

You may not realize it, but by saying and thinking that sites such as MySpace are “cool,” you are influencing the thoughts and behaviors of younger kids who may look up to you. Some kids on the site are much too young to even understand these dangers. As Agent Hubert says, “If you are old enough to put your fingers on the keyboard, you’re old enough to own an account.”

So by supporting sites like MySpace, you are not only putting yourself in danger of hackers and predators, but you are endangering younger kids as well. Please be careful and be safe.

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Katherine Herbst is a 9th-grader at North High School in Williamsville, NY