From the office watercooler and the evening news there is a lot of discussion and information about how to keep teens safe online, but there isn't much discussion about how to keep adults safe. The consensus may be that because someone is an adult, they already know how to stay safe online. Adults can be just as vulnerable as kids, especially those who are not accustomed to online networking.

Don't Reveal Too Much
When you join a social networking website, most ask for a username, gender, country/state and zip code. This information is usually displayed on your personal profile. Revealing more information such as your last name and address is not recommended since it is impossible to know the mindset of every person who views your profile. For example, if you describe where you live in detail or reveal where you work and your zip code is already posted on your profile, with a little digging, someone could track you down even if they only knew your first name. It just takes one person with criminal intentions to put you at risk.

Don t let your guard down and reveal too much about where you live even if you have friends in your online network and you feel you can trust them. You never truly know whom you re communicating with until you meet them face-to-face and spend time to get to know them.

Be on Guard
Many networking members keep a layer of anonymity by creating a unique username (one that doesn t resemble their real name) you can even register your account with an alias and phony location. Just make sure you read the networking website s TOS before you register with phony information; some sites may take exception to this and if you are caught, they may delete your account.

Always keep in mind that personal information, comments and photos that you post on your personal profile are viewable by the public even if your profile is limited to your circle of friends. Someone in your network could share your webpage address or contact information with people you don t know and those people could share the information with their friends and so on.

While you are chatting online, be wary of people who want to know intimate details about you or seem too eager to meet you in person.

If, after a period of time, you decide to meet someone from your network, make sure to bring a friend and meet in a public place. Plan on your friend accompanying you for the entire meeting since introductions and a few minutes of chitchat is not enough time to get to know someone. As an extra precaution, bring a friend along for the next few get-togethers.

Social networking websites allow you to express yourself, share ideas and interests, chat with friends and meet new people. Just remember that following a few precautions will go a long way to protect your privacy and safety.

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