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Facebook started out as a way for people to reconnect with old friends. Things have changed. MySpace is a thing of the past as Facebook has grown in popularity among teenagers who wish to "connect" with those they see in school everyday. With the teenage invasion of www.facebook.com comes a different way of surfing it. There are guidelines teenagers need to follow to make sure their Facebook experience is a safe and responsible one.

Here are the rules:

1. If a stranger is requesting your friendship, click "ignore." You may have mutual friends with this person, but that does not make it OK to click the "accept" option. Many teenagers will accept anybody and everybody who friend requests them. Remember that with one click, whoever you accept has access to everything on your profile. Raising your friend count is unimportant, but your safety is.

2. Even if you know the person requesting your friendship, think about it before you click "accept." Do you want this person to have access to your pictures? Do you want to see what this person has to post? Do you even talk to this person outside of cyberspace? If you answered no to one of these, click "ignore."

3. Set everything to private. If done correctly, only your friends will be able to view your profile, pictures and statuses. People who search you won't even be able to see your profile picture, and that's the safest way to be.

4. If you simply want to check up on things on Facebook and don't want to take part in a long-winded conversation via Facebook chat, go offline. Chances are, as soon as you pop up, someone bored out of their mind will chat with you. If you're bored as well, by all means, chat away. If you're not, better safe than sorry.

5. Make sure pictures you post or are tagged in are appropriate. Your future employers can go online and see what you would think they couldn't see (and they can, even if you followed Rule No. 3).

6. Avoid Facebook battles at all costs. In my neck of the woods, these occur when someone decides to post a nasty comment. Soon, other people jump in and it turns into a 100-comment-long thread of teenagers bashing each other back and forth. The phrase "think before you speak" applies here. Think before you type because you just might regret it later.

7. Some people don't wish to be bothered with the tireless games found on Facebook. Think twice before you send a FarmVille request to your Aunt Susie.

8. Think about who can see what you're posting before you post it. Would you be embarrassed if your aforementioned Aunt Susie saw the most recent status you posted? Is there a curse word in your status that you'd rather nobody in your family sees? If you answered yes, don't post it!

9. Many teachers have Facebook accounts. You're better off leaving them alone until you've graduated. If they pop up on the "People You May Know" tool, resist the urge to friend request them.

10. Don't waste your life away staring at a computer screen. Go outside and enjoy the fresh air, and if your mom is constantly on Facebook, tell her the same thing. Your computer will always be waiting for you; the same can't be said about nice weather.

Emily Steves is a senior at Gowanda High School.