Today, more than ever, a young person’s online presence can define their future. With more and more children and teens taking the first step of creating their online footprint via social networking sites, it is extremely important to build their awareness of the implications and dangers associated with a social web presence.
Facebook is the dominating force on the social networking scene and is likely a site your child/teen will want to join. Thankfully, Facebook does have age limitations, but there is no foolproof way for the site to ensure users are abiding – making it essential to talk with children about safe social networking and the dangers of over-sharing information. Below are a few tips and tricks to help guide your children in a safe direction while still encouraging them to enjoy socializing with friends online:
- Create your child’s Facebook privacy settings with him. Facebook has safety and public-policy teams that are aware of the younger audience flocking to the site. In response, they have rolled out new privacy settings specifically tailored to the under-18 set. But it is your job to make sure these settings are used the right way. Including your child in the privacy-setting process presents a unique opportunity to explain the reasoning behind privacy selections. If children understand why they should, for example, only share photos with their friends, they will be more likely to comply.
- Teach him to keep the information-sharing to a minimum. The more information available on your child’s Facebook profile, the higher chance that the information can be used to steal his identity, or even yours. Explain to your child that fun facts, like a pet’s name or the street you live on, which seem harmless, could be answers to security questions that protect valuable information like bank accounts and credit cards. Also explain to him that the information he gives out, such as phone numbers, addresses or names of places you frequent, might make him susceptible to Internet predators.
- Falsify some information on your child’s profile. Although honesty is the best policy in most situations, when it comes to safe social networking, lying can go a long way. Changing key information on a Facebook profile can mislead predators, keeping your child and his identity safe. For example, changing a birth date by a few days or reversing the numbers of your address will ensure that your child is harder to track down.
- Approve your child’s friend requests before he does. We already teach children not to talk to strangers on the street, but what about online? Teach your child that even though these Internet strangers cannot cause immediate physical harm, allowing them access to your personal information can still be dangerous. Let your child know that if he is unsure whether or not to accept a friend request, he can always talk it over with you.
- Make your own profile and ‘Friend’ your child. There is no better way to stay informed and set an example than to have your own profile and to use it in the same way you have taught your child to use his. This is also a great way to make sure your child is staying true to the safety precautions you both set into place. Of course, children and teens are not always thrilled by the thought of having their parents as friends on Facebook, but if you can swing it, it could be an invaluable way to keep them safe.