Tips for Parents and School Officials
Social Networking Safety for Children
By Justin G. Roy
Social Networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, as well as instant messengers are all fantastic tools to keep in touch with friends and family, share thoughts and going-on's, and expand your network. However, and quite unfortunately, there can be risks associated when deciding to become active in these communities.
In recent news, we have become all too aware of the cases of online bullying in addition to some uninformed and poor choices made by teenagers today when it comes to their presence online. Though it might be difficult to tell your child "no" when it comes creating a profile on a social network and even more difficult to monitor when the number of children with their own computer is raising. Having calm and informative discussions can go a long way. Granted there might be some eye rolling or some "yea, yea, yea" commenting when talking with your child about online safety, it has become a responsibility that we must all assume.
Should you decide to allow your child to have an account online, it's important to set some ground rules; let them know you are willing to negotiate on their social networking presence, but only if the following are adhered to:
- Do not list telephone number, cellular number, or address in your profile.
- Do not list current or hometown city. I suggest listing a city and state that are far away.
- Do not list school schedule, sports schedule, or planned activities.
- Select privacy settings that are appropriate, I suggest allowing only friends to access profile and picture information.
- Use a profile picture that is not a picture of the child; try using a family pet, scenic photo, a drawing, or a group picture taken from afar.
- Share their password with you; explain this is not to log in and spy (they might use the word "creep on my profile") but to keep in a safe place should you ever need it in an emergency.
- Depending on the age of the child, you might want to make it mandatory for them to add you as their friend; this will allow you to, at minimal, monitor their social network wall and take appropriate action should there be inappropriate postings or conversations. This does not mean fly off your seat when a curse word is used, but more of a monitoring for cyber-bullying or acts of danger.
If you are sitting here thinking your children would be safe and would never find themselves in a compromising position, please think again.”
Online security is not just for the younger folks either. Parents, there are a few "rules" you should be following as well if you have a presence on these networks. In addition to the suggestions above, please also consider:
- Do not list your child under "children" section (Facebook has this ability).
- Never include status updates concerning your schedule, working information, student sports, driving route information, etc.
- Select your privacy settings wisely as well.
In addition to the few tips above, it's also important to have an open line of communication with your children when it comes to these sites. Let them know you are available to talk when they have a concern about a friends activity or post; using the rule (and communicating such) of "as long as you come to me, you will not get in trouble" seems to work for many parents and children. Too often, children are afraid to approach their parents because of something they did [that escalated] or think they will be at fault and open to punishment.
If you are sitting here thinking your children would be safe and would never find themselves in a compromising position, please think again. If it's not them, it could be at the coercion of a friend or acquaintance; as their minds, brains, and judgment matures so does the risk-taking and boundary pushing.
As a social networking user, administrator, and teacher I do believe in the power of good on these networks and tend to be quite liberal. However, pre-teens and teenagers have not yet earned the luxury of being an adult and need to be monitored and educated. Practicing and enforcing good habits, keeping the communication lines open, and being diligent will yield a much more positive experience with these networks for both you and your child.
What do you think?
About the author:
Justin G. Roy is currently Vice President for Communications and Social Media at William Peace University, Raleigh, NC. In this role, Justin is responsible for online marketing and branding through the use of social networks, websites and blogging. Additionally, he works with students on online privacy, online personal branding and reputation, and safety and security.
Previous to William Peace University, Justin worked with individuals and companies on developing and implementing their social and new media digital strategies. Justin has been a featured speaker at conferences nation-wide and has been noted in several publications on topics such as online safety, online marketing, and social media.
Justin can be reached at email@example.com
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