Keeping Your Child Safe On Facebook
Source: Open Talk Magazine 12/12/2010 19:54:00
Do you know if your child has a Facebook account? If he/she puts up pictures of himself/herself or gives out too much personal information? Here’s what you need to know about keeping your child safe on Facebook.
We love it and we hate it, but most of us just can’t live without Facebook. It may sound surprising, but children and teenagers form a major part of the Facebook online community. You may wonder: ‘When the kids see their friends at school, why do they need to have Facebook accounts as well?’ That’s because commenting on each other’s posts, sharing photos and plenty of other gossip offers a completely new set of thrills. On the other hand, there are also many adults with not so good intentions who thrive on becoming friends with innocent children like yours.
Even if your child knows who to speak to and who to avoid; the personal information he/she gives out can be detrimental. Status updates such as ‘I’m alone at home’ or ‘Daddy is away on a trip again’ invites more trouble than you can imagine. Here’s what you can do to keep your child safe on Facebook-
Establish Boundaries - If your child often sneaks away to check his account, ensure that the computer is kept in a place that is in full view of an adult such as the hallway or the dining room. Kids will be less likely to do anything mischievous when they know a parent is watching them. If your kids insist on setting up a Facebook account, help them set it up. This way you will have greater control over what information they put up and you can teach them about the importance of staying secure online. Make sure you know every person who is in your child’s friends list and remove any unwanted personal information such as a phone number or home address from the user profile.
Uploading photos/videos - Facebook allows users to upload photos, but this could really be dangerous. Children may innocently put up pictures of their families or even of their friends; which may include school photos; displaying their school’s location. In fact, many pedophiles and other sex offenders sometimes choose their victims just by looking at their online photos. Disable the photo tagging option in your child’s account so that other people can’t tag your child in photos and reveal info like your child’s real name. For safety purposes, ensure that all photos uploaded show the kids dressed appropriately. Never allow your child to put up photos with them in bikini wear, skimpy swim wear or anything similar; it draws unwanted attention. Similarly, avoid uploading family videos which may give out too much personal information.
Status updates & conversations - We may not realize it, but status updates reveal a lot more than we think. It’s no wonder many people have lost their jobs and only because they openly declare about appearing at other interviews in their status updates. Many often include information about going to a movie, or certain hang outs; which often include times and dates. Children are often not aware of the dangers lurking and it’s important to advise them to only put updates which are harmless and which do not reveal anything much. Any conversation that they start with a friend, will show up on other people’s pages too, so it’s important they stay alert at all times and do not get carried away.
Unwanted networks - Networking is a good way to make new friends and expand your social circle, but there are plenty of unwanted networks and groups out there which prey on innocent children. Ensure that your child does not make friends with somebody just because that person is in another friend’s list. Clicking on an advertisement that appears on the right hand side of the page or adding any applications, may indirectly give out the user’s personal details as well; as that of all the contacts in the list. Your child’s network should only include known peers within their age group. There is absolutely no reason why full grown adults other than family members and family friends should be interested in chatting with your child.
It is advisable that all parents themselves check the security controls in their child’s Facebook account. Always put the security controls at the maximum and uncheck the option to allow your child’s profile to show up in searches. This alone will control unwanted attention to a large extent. If your children can’t do without a life on Facebook, then it’s your duty as a parent to make it as safe as possible for them online.