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Social networking safety for teens

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Facebook, My Space, twitter

Ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine just how pervasive social networking would be in our lives today. Whether or not you personally subscribe to the power of Internet as a socializing tool, the fact is, your children have never known life without it, and probably never will.

teen on computer

 

Chances are your children are either on Facebook, or will be soon. As empowering and convenient as this site can be, it can also be scary for parents. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep your kids safe while they connect with their friends.

Maintain Perspective

Facebook operates best when used as an extension of real world friendships. It can become dangerous when users mistake it for a sort of cyber-reality in which their "friends" exist in an online bubble and their real lives are completely separate.

Talk to your kids about limiting their time on Facebook and carefully considering their posts before sending it out into the World Wide Web. Any comments, pictures or information that you would not share with the world in real life, should not be shared via Facebook. In other word, this web site should be a reflection of reality, not an alternative.

Facebook Safety Features

According to Facebook spokesperson, Nicky Jackson Colaco, "nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of the people who use it, especially our many younger users." While the web site requires users to be at least 13, parents still have a responsibility to educate and monitor their child's use.

"Facebook offers granular privacy settings that allow users to have control over the information they share and the people with whom they share it," says Jackson Colaco. "We encourage parents to discuss privacy settings with their teens to decide what level of privacy makes the most sense for them, and review these settings together often,"

Cyber-bullying is an issue that Facebook takes seriously, even though it only impacts a small percentage of users. To defend against this sort of behavior, "Facebook maintains a robust reporting infrastructure that leverages our 400 million users to keep an eye out for offensive or potentially dangerous content," says Jackson Colaco. Trained personnel review each complaint and forward to law enforcement as needed.

Get more tips here on how to protect your kids from cyber bullies.

How to adjust Privacy Settings on facebook

Privacy settings enable users to have control over who can see their information or photographs. For minors, these settings are more restrictive. For instance, minors are not included in any public search listings.

To access privacy settings:
• Go to the 'Account' link in the top right-hand corner of any Facebook page
• Click on 'Privacy Settings'
• From here, choose the desired level of privacy for each Facebook section.
• Publisher Privacy Controls allows minors to control whether their status updates are seen by everyone on their "friend list" or by only their close friends and family.

The Reality

While Facebook is generally a safe environment in which all of us can connect and share, there are people who will use the site maliciously. Kids need to be reminded to keep their passwords private and to choose their Facebook friends carefully. A good rule of thumb is, don't accept friend requests from anyone who you don't know in real life.

"Parents should caution teens to be careful about posting and sharing information that could be used to identify or locate them offline, such as an address or telephone number," advises Jackson Colaco.

Many kids don't understand the permanence of information sent out into cyber-space. Demonstrate this fact by googgling yourself (or someone else) and showing them the results. Perhaps the long list of results will encourage them to think twice before clicking 'share.'

Video: Making social media safe for kids:

More on keeping kids safe online:

 

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