Frequent Questions and Concerns about Social Networking
What is online social networking?
Online social networking is when kids connect with other people online through certain websites. The most common for kids today include Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. Each person creates his or her own account and page, and posts information, photos, video, and comments. When a person “friends” another person through a social networking site, that person can then access the other person’s page and make comments, upload photos and so on. Right now, most kids think social networking is the best way to connect with others (outside of actually being and talking with them).
Is social networking safe for kids?
It depends on how old your child is, what she posts online, and what she knows about online safety. Although most social networking sites require kids to be a certain age (often 13) to sign up, many kids as young as eight years old are lying about their age and getting involved in social networking. You want to make sure your child understands how a social networking site works and which information is safe to post.
Most social networking sites feature strong privacy settings that enable your child to decide which information to share with all other users of that site can see, and which is restricted only to friends. Understanding and using these settings is important not only for your child’s safety, but also to prevent any unwanted embarrassment or vulnerability.
Often, the default settings on social networking sites are set to “public.” Make sure to visit the privacy page of any social networking site with your child to change the settings. Many sites provide a high degree of flexibility in deciding which elements of a profile to share. The safest settings are to restrict access to all parts of a profile to approved friends only. Your child also has the option to block certain people from seeing her or his page, and often the ability to pre-approve all comments posted on the page.
Should parents become friends of their kids online?
A number of parents won’t let their kids (especially their younger kids) have a social networking site unless the parent is allowed to be a friend. As a parent, this is a safety measure and is meant to give you access to monitor what’s going on. If you are your child’s social network friend, be careful not to post messages or photos that would embarrass your child. As kids get older (such as in high school), many “defriend” their parents or refuse to allow them access. This is part of normal teenage separation. Just make sure you’re clear about how you expect your teen to act online and that cyberbullying, sexting, and inappropriate postings are not allowed.