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Facebook Safety Guide

Facebook / MySpace Safety Guide for Parents

What is Facebook?

Facebook is a free website where users are given their own page to post information, news, pictures and videos about themselves. When they become someone’s Facebook “friend,” that person can see their page and communicate with them. It’s a great way to find friends you’ve lost track of and keep up with what your circle of friends is doing. It’s also the primary way that many people are sharing photos and videos, because you can “tag” those videos with your friends’ names and they’ll show up on their pages too.

Why should parents care what their kids are doing online?

  • Safety: You want to make sure your kids aren’t communicating with someone who intends to harm them.
  • Bullying: Whether it’s nasty messages or groups dedicated to hating a person, the internet opens up whole new realms of bullying possibilities. It’s also not always kid vs. kid; sometimes, kids are saying inappropriate things about their teachers.
  • Privacy: Sometimes people forget that the internet is a public forum, and somehow information that they consider private is actually public.
  • Mature themes: We all draw the line somewhere, and you want to make sure your online rules are consistent with your offline ones.
  • Ads: Even innocent internet pages might be accompanied by racy ads.
  • Time usage: It’s addictive, and can waste a lot of time.
  • Identity theft: Put the pieces together and someone can even open a credit card in your child’s name.
  • Self-branding: Is your child’s online image what he wants his community, potential employers and colleges to see? Even if it’s private, there are colleges and employers that are asking for access to pages.

Safety Tips:

  • Only let people be friends if you know them in person
  • Revise & frequently review your privacy settings. Click here to see how.
  • Use a different password for every site. Use a formula so you don’t always need to write them down.
  • Post as few identifying facts, such as your address and the city and date of your birth, as possible
  • Don’t assume you have privacy
  • Make sure no one’s set up a fake page for you
  • Don’t visit porn sites or sites selling questionable wares. Besides that they’re inappropriate, they often leave spyware or viruses on your computer.
  • Don’t share your password with anyone except your parents
  • See what others have to say about an application before you add it.
  • Don’t add too many applications
  • Don’t add applications that ask for a password
  • Don’t join inappropriate groups
  • Don’t post pictures, videos or other information about other people unless they approve
  • Once you’re logged in, don’t log in again.
  • Make sure you have a computer operating system, firewall and anti-virus program that update automatically
  • Backup your computer regularly.
  • Block and report anyone that sends you unwanted or inappropriate communications
  • Consider signing up for Lifelock as a backup to prevent identity theft. I signed up after my mail was stolen several years ago. I still take steps to protect my identity, but I’m glad I have the backup.

Steps parents should take to make sure their kids are safe on Facebook and other websites:

  • “Children under 13 years old are not permitted access to Facebook. In addition, parents of children 13 years and older should consider whether their child should be supervised during the child’s use of the Facebook site.” (Source: Facebook)
  • Keep internet-connected computers in plain view
  • Join Facebook before your kid does (if possible)
  • Add friends, applications, groups, photos, etc. to your own page so that you know how it all works
  • Be your kid’s “friend” in full profile!
  • Be your kid’s friend’s “friend” (if possible)
  • Don’t stalk or embarrass your child. If you send him a message, it’s private. If you post something on his Wall, it’s public, and all his friends can see it.
  • Get your child’s username and password. If your child starts exhibiting strange or self-destructive behavior, you’ll probably want to see what’s going on online. Otherwise, you’ll probably never need this. But have it just in case.
  • Check your child’s profile regularly
  • Challenge them to tell you something about their friends
  • Check your child’s privacy settings with them
  • Share safety tips with them
  • Don’t assume Facebook or other parents will monitor your child’s safety. That’s up to you and your child.
  • Set limits on time and access
  • Balance trust & monitoring – trust your intuition.

Should I let my child use Formspring or Chatroulette?

No. Since everything on there is anonymous, many people say or do things that are mean or inappropriate.

Internet security software:

Some people choose to monitor and restrict their child’s online activities using security software. I don’t, since I don’t want anything else on my computer that might mess it up and I don’t suspect that my kids are up to anything, but here are some things the software can be used for: (source)

  • Filter sexually explicit graphic descriptions or images: These tools block your child from viewing most sexually explicit material on the Web. But be aware, no filter is perfect.
  • Monitor your child’s online activities: These tools allow parents and caregivers the ability to monitor your child’s online activities through a variety of methods.
  • Limit the amount of time your child spends online: These tools can limit the amount time you child spends online. Some tools allow parents to block out times of the day when the child can or cannot go online.
  • Block your child’s personal information from being posted or emailed: These tools prevent a child from giving strangers their personal information (e.g. name, home address, etc.) while they are online.
  • Browsers for kids: These are Web browsers that serve as a gateway between your computer and the Internet. Browsers for kids generally filter sexual or otherwise inappropriate words or images. They are often designed to be easier for kids to use.

Programs include:

Bess
Content Barrier
CSWeb
Cyber Patrol
Cyber Sitter
Dual Protection
Echo
IamBigBrother and Internet Spy Mail for Yahoo Mail
Integard
Internet for Families
iProtectYou, CyberSieve & Chronager
KidRocket
My Web
Net Nanny
Parental Control Bar
PCTattleTale
Safe Eyes
See No Evil
SentryPC
Software4Parents
Surf Pass
WindowsLive OneCare Family Safety
ZoneAlarm
Zephyr

Learn which programs satisfy your needs and computer system at GetNetWise.org

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