Since the advent of social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, there have been those who expressed concern over the sharing of personal information in a public forum like the internet.
Including me. I have kids too.
These criticisms might be validated by recent data on the dangers posed by these sites. For example, InformationWeek just ran an article stating that users who post information about their vacation plans online increase their risk of becoming the victim of a break-in. "Burglars can easily use the information gathered on social networks to choose their victims, and then scope out more information on their homes through other Web sites, such as Google Street View."
A TechNewsWorld article focuses on another risk posed by social networking - identity theft. "Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn all encourage users to provide personal information such as name, address, sex, birth date, schools attended, birthplace and interests. [...] These details can provide the crucial information identity thieves need to misrepresent themselves as you. The more information that is included, the easier it is for a fraudster to fill in the blanks."
And yet, not everyone agrees. A BNET article entitled "Social Networking Myths and Risks" lists "I'll lose my privacy" as a myth: "A stranger browsing Google won't be able to trawl for your email or contact info — unless you've put it in your public profile. [...] Think of it this way: There's already bountiful information about nearly everyone on the Internet these days. At least with a social network profile (which tends to rank highly on Google), you control some of it."
Identity theft and security consultants love to tell you about the dangers of being online, and they're right in a way. Bad guys can figure out stuff about you online. No doubt. But if you're an average Joe and nobody is targeting you, reasonable participation in online communities is probably relatively safe.