Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Protecting Teens on Social Media

All of this media attention recently regarding Teen Suicide really has me pondering...and considering what I can do to protect my kids from not only bullying, but from the attacks that can come more subtly, like on Facebook, text messaging and gmail.

I cam to an interesting realization that may or may not ring true with other parents of teends.

Teens use facebook with reckless abandon. They post everything from how much their parents suck for making them do homework (duh!) to how much they like this person or that. While they believe they are well on their way to adulthood, they still have much to learn about life and while what they may perceive as an innocent comment in their status can easily come back to haunt them.

One of the challenges as I see it is most of them have fairly open profiles - meaning they are very easy to find and they give out far too much personal information - even to people who are not friends. And, I believe this makes them vulnerable.

I also believe than many of their parents may be oblivious to what their kids are doing on facebook at all.

Personally, we have our son's password. That doesn't mean we go snooping on a regular basis - if ever. But, we do have access to his account and if we see something as a problem, we talk to him about it and changes can be made.

We also have an 11-year-old daughter who is begging to have a facebook account. Many of her friends already do (many of those without their parents knowledge) although the "rule" is you must be 13. We have already experience bullying on gmail and cell phones and are in no hurry to enter this new realm with her.

So, what is my point in writing this at all? Children are precious and while they may feel invincible, they still need protection from time to time. I understand completely that we cannot possibly keep them from all potential hurt and harm, but there are some very simple things we can do when it comes to Social Media.

1. Be aware of what your teens are doing on Social Media - who their friends are, who and what they are talking about, etc. (a little lack of privacy now could reap rewards long into their future.)
2. Make sure their birthday does not include the year. (That is actually a good rule of thumb for all facebook users. It protects from identity theft and other online predators)
3. Change their privacy setting to allow only "friends" to see their personal information.
4. Know how to block people. If necessary, you can change their settings to block specific people from finding them at all.

Technology has made many things in our lives so much more convenient...and complex. Empowering our kids to handle their privacy through this technology will pay dividends long into the future.

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