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As Parents what can we do to protect our children using Facebook?

You would never let your child play alone at an unfamiliar place, so you shouldn’t let your children, tweens or teens spend endless unsupervised time on Facebook — without adult supervision, either.

“Sometimes parents are intimidated by the technology and don’t understand it,” said Rose, co-author of the new book The Facebook Guide For Parents. “But it’s really important to make sure you are there to see what’s going on.”

The guide offers step-by-step instructions on navigating the social media site. It pays special attention to safety issues including the correct privacy settings for children; what to do about cyber-bullying; and ways to educate children and parents about what they can and cannot post. The book, $25, can be downloaded, and includes a contract that parents can have their children sign to keep Facebook activity in check.

Perhaps you’ll be surprised to find that Rose and her co-authors, Lisa McKenzie, Francine Allaire and Cindy Ratzlaff, are fans of Facebook and other social media. But in doing research for their work, these mothers, aunts and sisters realized many people, especially children, weren’t aware that their personal information was posted in cyberspace for all to see. In fact, more than 9 million children between 13 and 17 are registered Facebook users.

Here are their suggestions for parents:

Join Facebook
Even if you aren’t interested in social media, set up your own account and insist that your son or daughter “friend’ you. Strike a bargain that you won’t comment on their wall (at least on regularly). Remind them that it’s your job to protect them and you need to be there to watch what they say and the people they talk to. Ask other people to help you keep an eye on activity. Ask aunts, uncle, cousins, grandparents and even other parents to join and become your child’s Facebook friend. In this global world “it takes a village” to keep everyone safe, Rose said.

Review settings
Just because it’s “social” doesn’t mean your child’s Facebook profile has to be “personal.” Too many people share too much information about themselves.Children, and even adults, should never list a list a home address, telephone number or show their full birthday, which makes them an easy target for identity theft. In the profile section, only month and day should show. In addition, Rose suggest removing hometown and school names if they are listed; again, too much information. Under the “privacy settings” make sure personal information, posts, contact information and friend information are available to “friends only.” When the box says “everyone” that means everyone on the Internet. Even the box that reads “friends of friends” opens your child up to too many strangers.

Set rules
Explain to your child that they shouldn’t write anything they wouldn’t say in a face-to-face conversation. Basically, don’t share anything you wouldn’t want your mother or father to see. Share with them that, an inappropriate comment today can affect a college application or job interview in the future. Tell children they cannot be “friends” with adults they do not know. If an unknown person asks to be your child’s friend, report that person immediately.

Watch out for bullies
While strangers are a worry, cyber-bullying is an even more common problem on Facebook, Rose said. Let your child know that it’s unacceptable to bully others. If he or she is the victim, make it clear they must tell you immediately. Parents can e-mail the information to Facebook’s safety center, without your child or the perpetrator knowing. The posts will be eliminated and the bully removed from the site.

Check back often
Pay attention to your child’s friends and what they are talking about. If you don’t like something, don’t comment online. Talk about it with your child in person.
Fan pages » Pay attention to the groups or “fan pages” he or she has joined. These can be public sites and might provide ways that strangers can access your child’s personal information.
Ch-ch-changes » Facebook is continually changing. Every 30 days, look through the personal and privacy settings to make sure things haven’t changed and they are set the way you want. Also, google your child’s name on occasion to see what kind of information is posted on the internet.

Locate your computer in a “Public Place”
Parents should have the “family pc” in a well traveled area (dinning room, etc) that they can causually glace at while their kids are online…or encourage the kids they can use their WiFi laptops in the living room.

Get the Facebook Guide For Parents now >>

Adapted from sltrib.com

  • 05/20/2010
  • IT