“It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It’s still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist: “Do you know where your kids are-and who they’re talking to online?”
Social networking sites are the hippest “meet market” around, especially among tweens, teens, and 20-somethings. These sites allow and encourage people to exchange information about themselves in profiles and journals, and use message boards, chat rooms, e-mail and instant messaging to communicate with the world at large. Unfortunately, while social networking sites can increase a person’s circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people who have less than friendly intentions.
There are many different social media choices nowadays and with it, the lines between what a friend is, and what is an acquaintance is, can be somewhat blurred… especially for a child or teenager.
Many social media sites terms and conditions state that children under 13 years old must not have an account (Facebook is one of these). On the other hand, some children are given access to these, or simply check the box to say they are of an appropriate age. If you plan on monitoring their usage, perhaps this is a good safeguard.
Some parents however see it as a violation of their child’s privacy rights to insist that their parent is a friend in social networking sites.
If you leave it up to them even if they are over 13, please ask yourself:
- Are they responsible enough to handle themselves in this online environment?
- What social pressures will they conform to?
- What persona could they create for themselves?
- How will their decisions made now affect them when they grow up and are looking for a job?
- Are they viewing (and sharing) inappropriate content?
- What personal information are they giving out about themselves inadvertently?
- Will they accept friendships from complete strangers? Who will they let into their lives?
- Are they being bullied online? Are they bullying online.
- How do you really know what is happening in their life in general if you allow them to hide their online selves?
In the end it is up to you to decide how ‘close’ you will be to your child’s social networking presence, but do take the time to consider all aspects of it, rather than simply focusing on privacy – there is a lot at stake.
There are a couple of choices available to you as a parent on how to deal with your childs social networking presence. Have a think about which one suits you best.
1) privacy reigns – leave them to it. But at least wait until they are the legal age.
2) insist that you are an online friend of your child
3) controlled privacy option – insist on random spot checks, where they are required to sign in and show you their activity.
4) choose a child-safe social media site such as the ones shown here on Mashable
Here is a video from local Waiuku CV expert Tom O’Neil on how a social media presence from childhood can affect your child’s future career.
Tips for helping your kids use these sites safely:
Keep the computer in an open area, like the kitchen or family room, where you can keep an eye on where your kids are going online and what they’re doing.
Use the Internet with your kids. Be open to learning about the technology so you can keep up with them. Look into their favorite sites so you can set sensible guidelines.
Talk to your kids about their online habits. If they use social networking sites, tell them why it’s important to keep their name, address, phone number, age and family financial information to themselves. Your children should be cautious about sharing other identifying information, too… even photo tagging.
Your kids should post only information that you and they are comfortable with everyone seeing and knowing. The Internet is the world’s biggest billboard: Just about anyone could see their page, including their teachers, the police, a college admissions officer, or a potential employer. In addition, once information is online, it’s there forever.
Warn your kids about the dangers of flirting with strangers online. Because some people lie online about who they really are, no one ever really knows who they’re dealing with. Tell your children to trust their gut: If they feel threatened or uncomfortable by someone or something online, they need to tell you and then report it to the police and your Internet service provider. You could end up preventing someone else from becoming a victim.
If you’re concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior, you can search the blog sites they visit to see what information they’re posting. Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, or area where you live.
Later in the year, we will be writing an article about the positive aspects of social media on our kids. Please feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com if you would like your opinion heard.