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If your little ones, or not so little ones, come across a questionable website, a sure-fire way to block it altogether...
New on Facebook
My intention with this site isn’t to scare parents or to vilify anyone or any service. Quite the contrary, I want to help educate parents and arm them with some knowledge that will help them and in turn help their kids. So, with that said… Facebook: Why are your kids on it?
Well, that’s not totally fair. I actually know people who are quite conscientious about their children, their online safety and reputation (yes, that’s right… your child’s online reputation). I have friends who have extended families who live on opposing coasts on the country and Facebook is a great medium for families, even children, to maintain regular contact with family members.
In my humble opinion though, if you’re not actively involved in monitoring what your kids are doing online and are letting your children have a Facebook account for the sake of having one, you’re doing a huge disservice to your child. I’m being pretty vocal about this due to having recently been shown the pre-teen Facebook account of a child that our family knows. Now, I’ve seen Facebook accounts of children within our children’s network of friends, schoolmates, relatives, etc. When asked, I’ve given advice to parents on helping them ensure that their child’s profiles are locked. This one threw me for a loop though. It has all the makings for a disaster:
- Account publically viewable
- Full name and hometown info on the child and siblings
- Inappropriate content
What I found to be most egregious here was thay the parents are “Friends” of the child on Facebook. I am probably opening up a hornet’s nest here, but seriously? Any number of this child’s posts would be cause for concern. The fact that there are regular posts is just over the top.
I implore all parents: Please think twice and thrice before allowing your child to have a Facebook account. Seriously ask yourself what value is there in my child engaging in online conversations that all too often will go unchecked. Tragically, there have been instances of cyberbullying that goes unchecked amongst children on social networking sites such as Facebook that lead to children being harmed or harming themselves.
My friendly advice:
- Be savvy about what your child is doing online. You don’t have to cyber stalk your kids. Be forthright with them about what they aren’t allowed to do and why.
- Have your home PC in communal area, not in your child’s room. There’s less chance for shenanigan’s when their surfing is ‘out in the open’.
- Talk often with your kids about pitfalls of certain online sites. Let them know that you’re aware of the downside and that you care about what is said online to them and about them.
- Participate with your kids in what they’re doing online. You don’t have to be overbearing or spy, but be involved.
If your child has a Facebook account what can you do to help keep them safer? Facebook allows you to control your privacy settings. Once you’re logged into Facebook, atop the menu on the right side of the screen you’ll find “Account”. Click on this and then “Privacy Settings”. From here you can ‘lock down’ the profile settings so that things such as contact information or photos are only viewable by people who are “Friends”. Otherwise, family photos, names and email information can be viewable to just about anyone.
Here are some additional resources where you can learn more about Facebook security and settings:
Controlling How You Share
What are your kids interested in? Chances are, whatever they are interested in offline, they'll be interested in online. You can help steer their online experience by going online yourself first and do a bit of Googling. Have a daughter who is a fan of American Girl? Check out their site. Have a son who loves Legos? Go to their online game site. Visit sites of brands that you're already familiar with and that you have a comfort level with. From here, you can venture out and explore. Make bookmarks of sites for your kids and offer them a variety of sites to choose from during their session online.
Supervision without Suffocation
By giving your kids a set of sites to choose from, you're giving them a sense of empowerment that they are making their own choices (they are of course, but within a controlled environment). This allows you to offer a certain level of supervision without suffocating them. Hand in hand with this is where in your home your PC is physically located. I highly recommend that you have your childs online session be in an area where you are… a communal area, not off in their room behind a closed door. That way, you're there as a resource to answer questions and you're there to ensure they're where they ought to be.
General Parameters that we follow and some nuggets of info
- You don't go online without asking. The PC is password protected anyhow
There are also many ways to protect your child's online viewing habits with software applications such as NetNanny . You need to research and figure what best suits your situation.
- We ask what it is they're interested in doing. "Dunno" or "Just going on Google" doesn't cut it.
Did you know that you can set up Safe Search Filtering on Google? With this, you can have another layer of protection to ensure that your kids don't stumble across something inappropriate when doing something as benign as a search.
- Time limits. Nobody spends all day on the PC (except for Daddy )
My wife bought an egg timer to put near the PC. When the kids get feisty and all want time online, this is a sure fire way to make it even-stevens.
- If you want to look at something new, we do it together first.