Protecting Kids With Social Networking Sites

Today, social networking sites have become one of the chief mediums of communication for teens and adults. These sites provide tools and encourage people to share information, photos and videos with one another as also to use blogs or private messaging. Users of these sites can communicate with their friends and family, with others who share their interests and in fact, with the whole world. While this is what makes these sites so exciting, they also bring with them some risks, especially for kids. It is therefore very important for adults, particularly, the parents to know what they should do to protect their kids on social networking sites.

Many a time, parents feel outpaced by their kids who seem to know more about computers and all the latest technology than they do. However, protecting kids is not just about knowing the technology. There are many common sense lessons that parents can teach their children as they socialize online.

  • Teach them the importance of maintaining their privacy. Tell them why it is so important for them not to reveal very personal information either about themselves, their friends or their family members. They should not give any details like names, addresses or phone numbers. In fact, they should even use screen names that do not give away too much information.
  • Choose those social networking sites that have very strong privacy settings. These settings will allow only a select few to access and actually post on your kid’s page. Explain why these privacy settings are so important to your child.
  • Further, children should only post information that they or you are comfortable allowing others to view.  Even if you turn on the privacy settings, some or all of your child’s profile may be seen by a fairly large audience, some of whom may include your child’s teachers, coaches and employers. Teach your child to understand the implications of whatever they are sharing online, when a much broader audience sees it or reads it.
  • Make your children aware that information once posted online cannot be taken back. They could of course delete that information from their site but they cannot delete it from the various computers where it may have already been downloaded and from where it can again be circulated online.
  • Do not be happy by monitoring your child’s online usage at home. Today more and more kids are reaching social networking sites through their cell phones. Understand what kind of limits you can place on your kid’s cell phone. Many cellular companies allow you to limit the amount of downloads or actual Internet access while others will allow only a limited use of the Internet features. Use whatever features you can to limit the time spent by your child online through the cell phone.
  • Typically, most social networking sites insist that their users are 13 years and older. If your child is not above 13 years, he should be persuaded not to sign up and use these sites. Remember, the site by itself cannot do much to keep your children from signing up and using the service.