With the rise in popularity of social networking sites like facebook, the demographic of users is growing both younger and older. Kids are learning to use the internet early in life as more child-friendly sites sprout up. That also means that kids are more vulnerable to online scams, pranks by friend, child predatory people and websites. Parents today must keep up with this technology to protect and help their kids successfully navigate this online territory. With proper monitoring and teaching your children how to be safe online, they can have a positive experience.
One of the most popular social networking sites kids are using is facebook. Though it has many privacy features, if you or your child don’t use these features or understand how others may prey upon you, then you may be putting yourself in danger.
Often times the worst experiences on facebook arise because kids are being mean to each other, posting unwanted photos, and/or revealing secrets about others. Let’s face it, children don’t understand the consequences of “innocent” actions they may take. Once something is posted on Facebook it is visible to others. Even if you delete it, someone may have already seen it. If it stays up, it is a permanent searchable piece of information online that a future college admissions officer, employer, significant other may find.
Facebook’s rules currently allow children 13 years and older on their site. If your child is under the age of 13, do not allow them to sign up for a facebook account. Think about what you’re teaching them if you do let them on before they are 13. You’re saying it’s ok to lie about your age. Perhaps this seems like a moot issue, but remember kids grow up fast. Would you want them drinking underage next?
Perhaps you don’t want your child to be “left behind” socially. This is peer pressure, and unfounded. Instead of basing your decision on the fear of your child being left out, it might be better to round up the parents of the school your child attends and have a frank conversation about the concerns you have. You might be surprised to learn that every parent feels that it’s premature to have their kids on Facebook before they are 13.
There is some talk in the news that Facebook may open up their site legitimately to children under 13. So if and when that time comes, monitoring your young children’s activity and teaching them about safe ways to use these sites is important. In the meantime, go ahead and google your child’s name and see if a link to facebook shows up.Â Be sure to straight out ask them if they’ve been on facebook or other sites.
Here are some general guidelines and steps you can take to start the process of keeping your kids safe on facebook and online in general.
- If you let your kids have a facebook account once they are 13, make sure you have a personal facebook account as well. After all, you wouldn’t let your kid go to a park alone in an unknown part of town the first time, would you? Go with them. If they already have an account, ask them for help in setting yours up. Here are detailed instructions if you prefer to start on your own: http://www.ehow.com/how_5722157_sign-up-facebook-account.html As your kids see you online more, this may influence them to make good choices while online.
- Have the login information to your child’s email and facebook accounts (user names and passwords). Yes, you will be thankful should you need to use them.
- Educate your child about being safe online. Here are a couple of suggestions as to what to post and what not to post.
- Don’t post information that lets people know you’re away from your home.
- In other words, post photos from a recent trip once you’re home.
- Engage in their online experience.
- Talk with them about the people they are meeting and interacting with online.
- Set a strict rule with them that they are never to arrange an in-person meeting without you being present.
- Remind them that if they have an uncomfortable experience online, to immediately end communications and let you know about it.
- Let them know the boundaries of which sites are ok and which are off limits. Contact your service provider and learn about their blocking and filtering services.
- Adjust Privacy settings, Account Settings and info page settings to your level of comfort. To customize your Privacy Settings: Click Account (upper right) -> Privacy Setting and click the Customize settings link in the middle of the page. Learn more about Privacy Settings with this video http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=681507022303, Here is an FAQ about privacy settings. http://www.facebook.com/help/new/?page=419. Here is a detailed explanation about controlling how you share. http://www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php
- Connect with other parents you know on facebook and find out how they are protecting their children.
- Teach your children to behave online as you teach them offline. Facebook is a public platform. Even if your privacy settings are intact, you never know who knows who and will be looking over someone else’s shoulder. These are good reminders for online communications as well.
- Rudeness is unacceptable.
- Profanity is unnecessary and makes them look bad (not cool).
- If you don’t have something nice to say keep it to yourself.
Be sure to get your child a Club TUKI membership where they can learn more about internet safety in a fun way through their internet safety games.
Let us know what you have done to keep your children safe online.