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Online Safety - Kids, Facebook and Social Networking

What Is Social Networking?

Social networking is a term used to describe websites and internet activities that involve interpersonal communication. In many cases, social networking sites give each member a profile, which the member uses to describe himself and post pictures. In order to network, users create friends lists that link them to other people's profiles. Users then share current activities (or "status") as well as biographical information.

Popular social networking sites include Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. Ensuring internet safety for your child means that you have to be aware of the various websites and learn how they work. If you do not have any experience with social networking, it may be a good idea to check out some of the more popular sites. You might even want to create your own profiles so you can really get a feel for how they work.

Internet safety parenting tips will make a lot more sense if you have actually used a social networking site. The most popular site is definitely Facebook with more than 500 million users so there's a good chance your child is one of them. So, go online and set up an account if you don't already have one.

How Do I know If My Kid Uses Social Networking Sites?

Ask. It sounds to easy, but there's a good chance you will get an honest answer. If your child denies having a Facebook page or other social networking account, you may to have do some snooping to confirm.

  • Create an account and search for your child by typing in his name and/or email address.
  • Enter your child's full name on Google. Facebook profiles often show up with a quick search.
  • Search the history on the computer your child uses most often.

While we'd all like to think we can trust our children implicitly, kids aren't always completely honest with parents. If your child lies to you about his internet usage, there is a good chance he is lying for a reason. If your child has a Facebook account that he doesn't want you to see, you need to see it! It is possible that he is telling the truth if he denies using any social networking sites, but you really need to be sure.

What To Tell Kids about Web Safety?

Most parents have had "the talk" with their kids - the safety talk, that is. From lessons about staying away from the stove to looking both ways before crossing the street, we teach our children how to stay out of harm's way. But, parents often base safety lectures on what we heard from our own parents. What you probably didn't hear from your parents was how to stay safe on the internet. This is a relatively new issue but it is just as important for your child to stay safe online as it is for him to stay safe anywhere else.

When discussing internet safety tips on the web, be sure to cover the following:

  • Never talk to anybody on the internet whom you do not already know in "real life."
  • If you do talk to a stranger on the internet, never, ever meet them in person. No matter what!
  • Do not make any personal information available online. This includes your phone number, address, hometown and school. If you wish to have personal information on your Facebook page, be sure the privacy settings are set accordingly.
  • Let your child know he can come to you with questions and concerns.

Stay In Control of Safety on the Web

  • Go through the site's privacy settings with your child. Make sure his profile information is only available to people he knows personally
  • Supervise your child's internet time. If you cannot supervise at all times, conduct unannounced random checks.
  • Do not allow your child to have a cell phone with internet capability. This enables him to go online without your knowledge.
  • Maintain open communication with your child.
  • Ask him about his internet usage and have him add you as a friend on any sites he uses.

Managing internet safety is a vital part of being a parent in the 21st century. You need to be informed, communicate with your child, and be somewhat of a watchdog. Your child is truly at risk if you do not take the necessary precautions. The computer may not look as dangerous as a pot of boiling water, but it is, and you need to treat it as a potential threat to your child's safety and well being.