Tips for safe social networkingWith over one billion Facebook users worldwide (as of October 2012)1 it looks like social networks are here to stay. And as of September 2012, the majority of American teens (58%), ages 13-17, now own a smartphone2, so they are able to access the internet and social networks 24/7, wherever they are. And summer vacation means a lot of free time for your kids, no doubt a lot of it will be spent on social networks!
Although the jury is still “out” on the positive vs. negative influences of social networks on teens, tweens or even younger kids, there are certainly dangers involving their use. Cyberbullying, the posting of private information or images, and other online safety issues should concern you as parents. But the good news is that there are quite a few things you can do to provide a safer social networking experience for your kids:
- Talk to your kids: probably the most important tip on this list, it’s very important that you keep an open dialogue with your kids and discuss the possible dangers of using social networks, such as sharing private information or pictures for the world to see, or cyberbullying. Try to be approachable and not judgmental and explain that they should always let you know if someone or something is making them feel uncomfortable.
- Set ground rules Allow a limited time for social networking per day and try to make sure that your kids engage in other activities such as “real life” socializing and physical activities outdoors. It may be a good idea to sign a family online safety contract with your kids outlining the rules for using social networks such as the amount of hours per day or the times of day during which your child can use social networks.
- Set a good example: If you yourself use social networks, try to set a good example by limiting the amount of time you spend there, befriending only people you know and sharing very little private information.
- Be skeptical: Explain to your kids that they shouldn’t believe everything they read online. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent, but is still something to watch out for.
- Customize your kids’ privacy options: Make sure your kids don’t share information such as their last name, school, home address, cell phone number, email and IM addresses. Check out the settings, configuration and privacy sections of the social networking programs to see what options you have to limit who and what groups can see various aspects of their personal information. On Facebook, for example, you control whether no one, friends, friends and networks, or everyone can see basic info, personal info, photos, friends and postings.
- Enable content filtering / parental control: For starters, you can set up parental controls in Windows by selecting that option from the control panel. Or you can go ahead and install an online child safety program such as PureSight Owl
- Know your child's password:. So you'll be able to log into his/her account any time and see what's going on. If you're just "friends," your child can configure his/her privacy settings to prevent you from seeing certain things, or even set up a separate account where you are not listed as a friend.
- Keep your child's physical location private:. Disable Facebook Places and photo geo-tagging, and configure privacy settings for photo tagging on Facebook.
- Know their friends: . For younger children, their online friends should be friends that you know in real life. For teens, have them explain how they know each friend.
- Instruct your kids not to use third party applications (apps) shared within the network. Using these apps involves allowing them to access your kids’ private information.
Tags: online child safety, safe internet use, safe social networking, Facebook