It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It’s still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist: “Do you know where your kids are-and who they’re talking to online?”
Social networking sites are the hippest “meet market” around, especially among tweens, teens, and 20-somethings.
These sites allow and encourage people to exchange information about themselves in profiles and journals, and use message boards, chat rooms, e-mail and instant messaging to communicate with the world at large.
Unfortunately, while social networking sites can increase a person’s circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people who have less than friendly intentions.
In the US, The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, offers tips for helping your kids use these sites safely. Here are few that might be useful:
1) Keep the computer, ipad or mobile phone in an open area, like the kitchen or family room, where you can keep an eye on where your kids are going online and what they’re doing.
2) Use the Internet with your kids. Be open to learning about the technology so you can keep up with them. Look into their favourite sites so you can set sensible guidelines.
3) Talk to your kids about their online habits. If they use social networking sites, tell them why it’s important to keep their name, Social Security number, address, phone number, age and family financial information to themselves. Your children should be cautious about sharing other identifying information, too.
4) Your kids should only post information that you and they are comfortable with everyone seeing and knowing. With the internet, sites like Facebook and Twitter have become the world’s biggest billboards: Just about anyone could see their page, including their teachers, the police, a college admissions officer, or a potential employer. In addition, once information is online, it’s hard or almost impossible to remove.
5) Warn your kids about the dangers of flirting with strangers online. Because some people lie online about who they really are, no one ever really knows who they’re dealing with.
Tell your children to be cautious: If they feel threatened or uncomfortable by someone or something online, they need to tell you and then report it to the police and your Internet service provider. You could end up preventing someone else from becoming a victim.
6) If you’re concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behaviour, you can search the blog and social media sites they visit to see what information they’re posting. Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, or area where you live.
I hope these tips help, although these days its almost impossible to stop kids accessing social media or talking to whoever they wish, but try to keep the discussion open with your kids so they don’t feel they have to hide it from you.