Using Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites, such as Myspace, Xanga, and others are extremely popular with children and teenagers. These sites allow kids to socialize and chat with their friends. They can post a profile with pictures and information about themselves, and then share this information with other people online. They build up a network of online “friends”, who they can then chat with anytime – night or day. These sites are extremely popular – even addictive. As a parent, it is imperative that you know where your child is going online, and what they are posting. This article discusses some tips for teaching your child to use these sites responsibly.

Teach Your Child What to Keep Private: Be sure your child understands what information is okay to share, and what should be kept private. Explain that personal details such as their real name, address, phone number, birth date, etc. should never be posted on their social networking site. Be sure to tell them that this also applies to answering email surveys from friends or posting these surveys on their page.

The Internet is Public Domain: Remind your child that the internet is public, and that anything they post can be seen by nearly anyone. It’s important that they understand that this information remains on the internet forever, and can be found by their grandmother, their future boss, or (gasp!) their parents.

Use the Site’s Privacy Settings: Most social networking sites have some sort of privacy settings. Use these settings to limit who can view your children’s pages. If possible, set the page to “private”. This means that only people your child personally invites can see their page.

The Internet is Forever: Remind your children that the things they post on the internet today will be available for their children to read. Through cached pages, nearly anything they post can be found by a teacher or future employer. In fact, more and more employers are making it a common practice to check the records of their potential employees online before making hiring decisions.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Teach your child that not everyone that they meet on the internet is a friend. Give them an age appropriate explanation about sexual predators, and help them understand why it is important to avoid sexual talk on the internet. It may not be another teen that they’re talking to! Teach your children to come to you if anyone approaches them in a sexual or provocative manner on the internet.

Communication is Key: Most importantly, help your child or teen to understand that they can come to you if they experience anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable. As a parent, it’s your job to help protect them, so make sure that they know they can come to you first.

Have a great day!