The Internet and social media sites such as Facebook play an integral role in the lives of kids today. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the 2010 Pew Internet & American Life Project report that “73 percent of teens (12-17) have profiles on social networking sites.” Keeping kids safe on sites such as Facebook is a difficult task for many parents, but monitoring social media activities can prevent kids from making choices that have serious consequences.
Facebook basics. Facebook, a social networking site, is free and available to anyone with an email address. Facebook does not allow accounts for children younger than 13 years old. People of all ages and genders from around the world can connect through both public and personal pages. Members each have a profile page that may feature their name, date of birth, photos and other personal information. Facebook does offer a variety of security protocols, which parents are encouraged to monitor when their children have personal accounts.
Can Facebook be dangerous for teens? Any social media site allowing members to interact with each other via posts, chats or other means can be dangerous for teens. Teens often are uninhibited with what they share online, forgetting they are leaving behind a digital footprint. Once something is put into cyberspace, it’s hard to retrieve or eradicate its traces completely. Teens inadvertently may share private information or be exploited by predators.
Monitoring Facebook. Ways parents can monitor their kids Facebook participation include:
- Talk to their kids about responsible online behavior, including controlling their personal information and never posting any inappropriate pictures of themselves or other people.
- Insist upon the use of privacy settings. Kids should have their account set to “Friends only” so the public does not have access to any of their activity.
- Require the notification setting be enabled so they are alerted whenever their name is tagged in a post or picture.
- Require the “Review Posts” option under Privacy Settings be enabled. This allows the teens to approve any pictures that they have been tagged in before they are posted on the teen’s timeline.
- Remind teens never to post their location. A comment made on a friend’s timeline may be visible to the public if that friend has their profile open.
Remember, keeping updated with your teen’s Facebook activities is a way to stay connected with their life. You require your teen to tell you the who, what, where, when and why for activities such as parties. Checking on their Facebook activity is no different. Spying on your teen’s Facebook activity may cause a negative (and potentially explosive) reaction. However, if you are upfront and non-confrontational, it’s easier to start a dialogue.