You can’t escape social networking these days: Facebook, linkedIn, Google+, and all their online cousins are everywhere. If you’ve got kids, chances are they’re eager to join all their friends in cyberspace.
Worrying about their safety is natural, but hoping social networks will go away isn’t very realistic. You’re better off working with your children so they don’t hide their online activities from you. Take these steps to help them enjoy social networking safely:
Start with kid friendly sites: Facebook is far from the only place for people to go. A quick internet search will help you locate lots of sites just for children. (ex. club penguin) You’ll want to investigate them thoroughly, of course, but they can serve as a good introduction for your children to the world of online networking.
Talk about privacy: Have a serious discussion with your kids about guarding their personal information online. They should understand that data like their full names, address, phone numbers, school, and birth date should be kept private for their own protection. Emphasize that once something is posted online (a message or a photo) they can’t remove it entirely even if they delete the information from their profile.
Choose a secure password: A password that your child can remember easily may be simple for a hacker to guess. Come up with a password that includes a mix of letters, numbers, and capitalization so its less vulnerable to attack.
Encourage children to talk to you: Tell your children to let you know if someone online does anything to make them feel uncomfortable. If necessary report the person to your site’s administrator. At the same time, talk about the need for your children to treat everyone with respect, online as well as in the real world.
Be aware: Social networking and technological advances have fundamentally changed the shape of adoption, particularly when it comes to contact. Unsupervised direct contact between adopted teenagers and their birth families could happen via Facebook or any other social network. While contact between birth families and teenagers isn’t inherently bad, it depends on the situation surrounding your child’s history. Make sure that your child knows their story and their history so that they aren’t blindsided if someone contacts them. This can be a very emotionally charged event, distracting teens from all other activities.