Thursday, February 11, 2010

Social Networking Parent's Guide

Social networking sitesSocial networking sites can be accessed by anyone because they basically offer memberships for free. Hence, they may try to engage in social sites not fit for their age or acquaint themselves with people that will not be healthy for them. It is therefore a parents responsibility to make sure his/her son/daughter's social networking experience is a healthy one.

“Do you know where your children are?" is a common things asked from parents concerning children. In the social networking sense it equates to "Do you know what social networks your kids are actively involved in — and who they're chatting with online?"

Social networking sites have evolved into a mainstream for kids, teens and adults alike. These sites encourage and facilitate information exchanges about people, picture and video sharing, and communication through blog and other instant messaging media with other like minded people or the whole community in general. Though the potential benefits of actively participating in social sites are very huge, we should all be aware of the risks and possible pitfalls the come with online social networking.

There are some social networking sites whose main target audience are pre-teens – kids ages 5-11 years old. These kid-focused sites implement rules and policies better fit for youngster and members usually go through a longer membership process than the regular teen and adult sites. There are still however, a number of things a parent can do to better make sure of your kid's online socializing safety. The law is well aware of this dilemma and has provided parents control over the type of information a kid can post or publish online.

The federal constitution has devised the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to govern sites directed to an audience of ages under 13. The COPPA also applies to sites who do not specifically target pre-teens but are aware that they are dealing with kids younger than 13. the COPPA requires such sites to get parental permission before they can start to collect, maintain, or use a kids' information. It also gives the parents the power to review their kid's online profile and blog pages and make necessary changes. The main problem lies in the fact that most parents fell outpaced by their technologically savvy kids and feel reluctance in approaching them about techie matters. Parents should know that there are still stuff they can teach their kid's to help them stay safe while socializing in the realm of cyberspace.

Help Kids Socialize Safely Online
1. Aid your kids distinguish what information should be kept confidential
Explain to them the reasons why some information about themselves, family members and friends are to be kept from the knowledge of other people. Tell them the possible harm divulging information like full name, Social Security number, street address, phone number, and family financial information — like bank or credit card account numbers — can cause. Advice them to choose a screen name or user name that does not give out way to much information.

2. Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child's website
Good social networking sites have strong privacy settings. Demonstrate to your kid how to utilize these settings to limit who can view their online profile, and explain to them its importance.

3.Explain that kids should post only information that you and they don't mind others seeing
Even after privacy settings have been put into effect, there are still some or even all of your kid's profile that outsiders or the general public can look at. Advice your child to think at least twice about what he will be saying in his blog or what pictures or videos he will be uploading. Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view your child's postings and may provide a very valuable first impression. Even screen names can have big impacts. Advise kids to think about what others may think of their screen names.

4. Inform your kids that once they publish information online, they can't take it back
Even if they delete the information from a site, others would have already sen it, and older versions may exist on other people's computers and be circulated online.

5. Determine how your kids access the online social networking sites
More and more, kids are accessing the Internet through their cellular phones. Find out about the limitations you can place on your child's cell phone. Some cellular companies offer plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting; other plans permit kids to use those features only at particular times of day.

6. Tell your kids about online bullying
Online bullying can be executed in numerous forms, from circulating rumors online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender's permission, to sending threatening messages. Let your kids know that the words they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad – and, sometimes, can bring on punishment from the authorities. Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully.

7. Tell your kids to refrain from sex talk online
Recent research shows that teens who don't talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with a predator. If you're concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior, you can search the blog sites they visit to see what information they're posting. Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or area where you live.

8. Advice your kids to trust their Instincts if they get suspicious
If they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage them to tell you. You can then help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate online behavior.

9. Read sites' privacy policies
Spend some time with a site's privacy policy, FAQs, and parent sections to understand its features and privacy controls. The site should spell out your rights as a parent to review and delete your child's profile if your child is younger than 13.


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