Facebook is the most utilized social networking site world wide with more than 845 million users. The magic age for kids to be considered Facebook legal is 13. But of Facebook’s current users, an estimated 7.5 million are actually under the age of 13. Now more than ever parents need to arm themselves with information about how to keep their children safe on social media sites like Facebook that were designed for adults but are being used by kids. If your child (of any age) has a Facebook account, here are some tips to help keep them as safe as possible:
Talk openly about internet safety rules. Keeping the lines of communication open is one of the best ways parents can teach their children about staying safe online. Some basic guidelines include never giving your personal information online, never meeting someone in real life that you know only from the internet, and always telling your parents if something you have seen online makes you uncomfortable.
Know your child’s Facebook password. I know some of you might argue that this is like making your child give you the key to their diary. But their diary is hidden away in their bedroom. It is personal and only for them to read. What they say or do online can have a lasting impact on their reputation and their safety. Something they post or a picture they are tagged in could haunt them for the rest of their lives. It’s that simple. Let them keep the key to their diary, but if they’re on Facebook then as a parent you need to know their password.
Be their Facebook friend. Okay, so you’re their parent not their friend. I understand. But as a parent you need to know what’s going on in their lives. You need to monitor their online activity in the same way you’d keep an eye on what they do in real life. There’s no better way to do that than to be their friend on Facebook. You don’t need to comment on their status updates or pictures if they don’t want you to, but you can quietly observe their activities from your Facebook profile to help keep them safe.
Monitor their friend list. Instruct your kids that they are only allowed to be friends with people they actually know in real life. Then periodically monitor their friend list and make sure they haven’t befriended a total stranger.
Manage their privacy settings carefully. The goal of Facebook is to help people connect. To do that, Facebook prefers users to be as open as possible to make sharing easier. But kids need to be much more restrictive in their sharing than adults. To restrict their settings, log in as your child and go to Privacy Settings and then How You Connect. Choose options like “Friends Only” or “Friends of Friends” to minimize their exposure to complete strangers.
Facebook safety for kids (and parents) can be overwhelming. Believe me, I know! But parents today have to be diligent about it. Our kids are there, we’ve got to be, too.