Social Networking Safety Tips for Parents

girlanddad.jpgSocial Networking Safety Tips for Parents

Determine if there is real need for your children to have a social network account.

• Set your own house Internet rules.

It is a good idea to come up with a list of rules for using the Internet that everyone can agree on. These rules should include which site your children are allowed; how they should behave on the site; what they can and cannot do on the site. It is also a good idea to have your children agreed on a method for you as a parent to monitor their site and/or online activities. Perhaps create a ‘contract’ with your children.

Stick with age-appropriate sites and ensure your child follow age limits on the site.
The recommended age for signing up for social websites is usually 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age for these sites, do not let them use the sites. It is important to remember that you cannot rely on the services themselves to keep your underage child from signing up.

• Carefully setup the environment.
Do not setup a computer in your children’s own room where there is no supervision while they are online. Set up the computer in a common area. Limit the number of computers that they can use to go online.

• Beware of the smart phones and handheld devices.
Smart phones and handheld devices such as blackberry, iPhone, iPad, iPod and Nintendo DS are fully capable to access Internet. There are apps available on these devices to access social network. With these devices, your children are able to access internet and social network sites almost anywhere at any time. You might not even know about it.

Utilize the technologies.
There are various software programs that can help parents to monitor their children’s Internet activity and block the inappropriate website.

• Tell your children to think before they post.
Remind them that everything can be seen by a vast, invisible audience (otherwise known as friends of friends of friends). Although each family is different, it's a good idea for parents to have access to their children’s pages, at least at first; to be sure that what's being posted is appropriate.

• Make sure your children set their privacy settings.
Privacy settings aren't foolproof, but they're important. Take the time to learn how privacy settings work on your children’s favorite sites, and teach them how to control their privacy.

• Review your child's friends list.
You may want to limit your children's online "friends" to people they actually know.

Insist that your children never meet anyone in person that they've communicated with online only, and encourage them to communicate only with people they've met in person.
Children are in real danger when they meet strangers in person whom they've communicated with online only. You can help protect your children by encouraging them to use these sites to communicate with their friends, but not with people they've never met in person.

• Ensure your children don't use full names.
Have your children use only their first names or a nickname, but not a nickname that would attract inappropriate attention. Also, do not allow your children to post the full names of their friends.

• Be wary of other identifiable information in your child's profile.
Many social websites allow kids to join public groups that include everyone who goes to a certain school. Be careful when your children reveal this and other information that could be used to identify them, such as their school mascots, their workplaces, or the name of the towns they live in. Too much information can make your children vulnerable to cyber bullying, Internet predators, Internet fraud, or identity theft.

• Consider using a site that is not very public. Some websites allow you to password-protect your site or use other methods to help limit viewers to only people your child knows.

• Help your children understand what information should stay private.
Tell your kids why it's important to keep some things (such as themselves, family members, and friends) to themselves. Information like their Social Security number, street address, phone number, and family financial information (such as bank account or credit card numbers) is private and should stay that way.

Let your children know that anything they create or communicate can be cut, altered, pasted, and sent around.
Once they put something on their pages, it's out of their control and can be taken out of context and used to hurt them or someone else. This includes talk and photos of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Tell them that the information they posted online can last forever. If they wouldn't put something on the wall of the school hallway, they shouldn't post it online.

• Don't post your location.
Social networks allow kids to post their location, but it's just not safe for them to do this.

• Be smart about details in photographs.
Explain to your children that photographs can reveal a lot of personal information. Encourage your children not to post photographs of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, license plates on their cars, or the name of their school on their sweatshirts. Encourage them to consult with parents before post photos online.

• Warn your children about expressing emotions to strangers.
You've probably already encouraged your kids not to communicate with strangers directly online. However, kids use social websites to write journals and poems that often express strong emotions. Explain to your children that many of these words can be read by anyone with access to the Internet and that predators often search out emotionally vulnerable kids.

Teach your children about cyber bullying.
As soon as your children are old enough to use social websites, talk to them about cyber bullying. Tell them that if they think they're being cyber bullied, they should share this information right away with a parent, a teacher, or another adult that they trust. It's also important to encourage kids to communicate with other people online in the same way they would face-to-face. Ask kids to treat other people the way they would prefer to be treated.

• Communicate with your children about their experiences.
Encourage your children to tell you if something they encounter on one of these sites makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention.

• Know what your kids are doing.
Get to know the social networking sites your kids use so you understand their activities. If you're concerned about risky online behavior, you may want to search the social sites they use to see what information they're posting. Are they pretending to be someone else? Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or community.

• Ask your kids who they’re in touch with online.
Just as you want to know who your kids' friends are offline, it's a good idea to know who they're talking to online.