Social networking is all the rage right now. If you don’t use Facebook or MySpace or another site for networking then you know someone who does. It is everywhere, actors, models, musicians, professional athletes and more are in on the Twitter phenomena and other sites. It is no wonder that most of today’s teens are on such sites and feeling the need to be online with friends.
With the wonders of technology comes some concerns for parents. We all realize the fun that teens can have with their friends, family and even parents when using these sites but we also see the other side of the story where parents don’t want their children to come across the wrong person. Internet safety is key.
So, how do we keep our teens out of trouble while online whether they use Facebook or another website for networking? Here are few ideas to help you:
- Privacy settings: Who can see your teens information? Make sure that your teen goes into their account privacy settings and sets it so that only friends can see their information and photos, etc. You need to do this in each section (photos, profile information, etc.). In the privacy page click on “Search”. You will see where you can control who contacts you or your teen. This will keep people that your teen doesn’t know from contacting them randomly to get information or friend requests.
- Don’t post your full name. It is a good idea just to use your last name initial. Be sure to explain to your teen why this is important.
- Explain to your teen that just because you have your privacy settings set does not mean that your friends are doing the same. So, it is never a good idea to post questionable material or photos anywhere on your page. These things appear on your friends “wall” and if the privacy settings are not set then you do not know who is viewing these items.
- Do not post school info, address, or phone number on your profile or anywhere else.
- Only allow friends that you know in person. Cyber friends are a tricky thing. Talk with your teen about the importance of why you only need your true “in person” friends to be viewing your information. Cyber bullying is a real problem, discuss this with your teen so that they are not the victim or the cause of such a problem.
The key with most teen issues is to communicate. Teens need you to talk to them and to be honest and straight forward. Parents need to closely monitor teen Internet use and this includes social networking sites. Some parents only allow their teens to have accounts as long as the parent has the password. Other’s allow the teen to have accounts if they are on the teens friends list. This is a good way to monitor the photos that are being posted as well as the content and any other activity.
Parents may think that it is simply a teens right to have such a page and that it is their right to have privacy. Considering the dangers of the Internet and giving out information you cannot just trust that your teen has the wisdom to know how to use the power of such sites without some guidance. Be involved and if you do let your teen use these sites, join the party and do it with them. Use a parent contract if necessary so that your teen understand the rules and consequences of having the privilege of Internet access.