Social media sites haven’t existed for long, but they are hugely popular. They are internet forums for people to connect with friends, family, colleagues and like-minded individuals, and to share and search for information. Most of these can be accessed by apps for mobile devices, making it easy to use them in privacy. There are many positive aspects of these sites, and many problems.

One issue is that there is little or no enforcement of age restrictions. A site may require that a person be 18 or 21 to participate, but that often consists only of clicking a tab saying “I really, really promise I’m 18, I wouldn’t lie, would I?” Many teens and tweens access these sites, sometimes with disastrous results. Also, some adult predators access sites for minors and pose as a child of the age intended for the site and seek interactions with children. These predators then turn the interactions sexual, sometimes successfully enticing the minor to send naked pictures or meet face to face.

Some sites are intended for connecting people socially and sexually. Some are dating sites and some are for casual, even anonymous sexual hookups. Some adults try to solicit minors for sex through these sites. Some minors pose as adults and willingly engage in sexual encounters but, if they are under the age of consent, it constitutes a crime.

Some people post “revenge porn” to their social sites or to other bulletin boards where they can be viewed by others. Revenge porn involves images taken of a consenting person, often a romantic partner. When the relationship ends deleting them is a matter of discretion and it is difficult or impossible to retrieve them without the other person’s cooperation. Those images can’t be erased by the subject of the pictures and some vengeful ex’s post them publically to humiliate the person who spurned them.

Perceived anonymity can lead some users of these sites to act in ways they wouldn’t if they thought others would know who they are. Even though a poster’s identity often can be learned, some sites are truly anonymous by design. Such sites may have more prevalent issues with porn, sexual solicitation, bullying, intimidation and the like.