Teaching Your Child About the Dangers of Social Networking
Social networking has become such a part of life that even kids have learned to “Facebook” or “tweet.” That’s why it’s important to teach your child about the dangers that lurk on such sites and how they can protect themselves from such dangers as phishing and other scams, computer viruses, cyberbullies, online predators and other Internet hazards.
Begin by verifying that your child is old enough to create a profile on the site they want to use. Most social networks are open to ages 13 and up. If your child isn’t 13, don’t let her sign up until she is. Instead, help her find a network geared to children her age and become involved there.
Next, share with your child what he can, and cannot, share online. For instance, he should never give out an address or a current location. Many sites, such as Facebook, for instance, make it easy to list where a user is at any given moment. Doing so can open your child up to the danger of stalkers or worse and should be avoided entirely.
Talk to your kids about their time spent online. Ask what they saw, what they wrote, what their friends said. It’s not a matter of being nosy. It’s a matter of being a part of your child’s life, communicating with her, and understanding what she is going through. Encourage your child to let you know if someone threatens them, scares them or harasses them online. Don’t yell or blame. Instead, help them to work through the issues and keep the lines of communication open between you.
Set specific guidelines for Internet usage, regardless of the age of your child. This may include the amount of time he can spend online, and on social websites, in particular. It may also include which networks he can join, and other rules that you can agree on. But don’t let your child’s agreement be the deciding factor in setting boundaries. His safety is at stake, and it’s your responsibility to ensure he’s protected. If necessary, set the rules you think are appropriate and let your child know they’re not up for discussion.
Be sure any rules you make are written down and that you child keeps a copy by her computer. This is the best defense against, “I forgot” or “I didn’t know.” Ensuring that there is a written reminder will go a long way in helping your child remember your guidelines.
Explain your reasons for the rules you set. For instance, let your child know that limiting his time spent online isn’t designed to limit the amount of fun he has, it’s to minimize the influence the social networking environment has on your child and reduce his exposure to online dangers.
In addition, share the potential dangers with your child. While you don’t want to be so blunt and graphic as to cause nightmares, letting your child know that not everyone online may be who they claim is a good way to help her become more discerning in who she friends and who she shares personal information with.
Firmly insist that your child never arranges to meet someone in person whom they’ve only met online. This is terribly dangerous and should guarded against at all costs. Teach your child to focus their attention on people they know personally rather than those they just meet online.
Doing your best to educate your child about online dangers will go a long way toward keeping him safe. The Internet brings potential danger into our lives, yes. As does school, shopping, and just about anything else we do. Knowing the possible dangers helps us guard against them. And teaching them to our kids will help to ensure their safety as well.
Help protect our teens!