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Children use social networking sites to create their online identity, communicate with their friends, and meet people with similar interests. Like most new technological developments, this brings both positive and negative implications. Social networking sites incorporate instant messaging, chatrooms, profiles, pictures, E-mail, and blogging all in one site. Here are some tips to help keep children safer while they are using social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace,® or Xanga.®
Tips for Parents and Guardians
- Talk to your children about
- the possible risks and future repercussions
- their online activities. View their profile or blog together. If your child is not willing to do this, then your child may have information on their blog or profile they do not want you to see and should not have posted
- not giving out personal information, such as names, school, city, or e-mail address. This includes making or posting plans and activities on the site
- posting pictures online; once an image is posted anywhere on the Internet (even on a profile with private settings), it may never be completely erased from the Internet, even if it is deleted
- the dangers of communicating with people they have never met in person. Remind them that people on the Internet are not always who they say they are
- coming to you or another trusted adult if he or she ever feels threatened or uncomfortable about something online
- using privacy settings to restrict who can and cannot access their profile or blog. Teach children to only accept people as friends if they know and trust them in real life
- Monitor what your child's friends are posting regarding your child's identity. Often children and their friends have accounts linked to one another, so it's not just your child's profile and information you need to worry about
- Familiarize yourself with the social networking website’s features and safety tips
- Report any illegal content to: the appropriate law-enforcement agency; CyberTipline.com; your Internet service provider; and the social networking website’s webmaster.
Tips for Kids and Teens
- Never post your personal information, such as cell phone number, address, or the name of your school.
- Be aware that information you give out in blogs could also put you at risk of victimization. People looking to harm you could use the information you post to gain your trust. They can also deceive you by pretending they know you.
- Never give out your password to anyone other than your parent or guardian.
- Only add people as friends to your site if you know and trust them in real life.
- Never meet in person with anyone you first "met" on a social networking site. Some people may not be who they say they are.
- Think before posting your photos. Personal photos should not have revealing information, such as school names or locations. Look at the backgrounds of the pictures to make sure you are not giving out any identifying information without realizing it. The name of a mall, the license plate of your car, signs, or the name of your sports team on your jersey or clothing all contain information that can give your location away.
- Never respond to harassing or rude comments posted on your profile. Delete any unwanted messages or friends who continuously leave inappropriate comments. Report these comments to the networking site if they violate that site's terms of service.
- Use the privacy settings of the social networking site:
- Set it so that people can only be added as your friend if you approve it.
- Set it so that people can only view your profile if you have approved them as a friend.
- Remember that posting information about your friends could put them at risk. Protect your friends by not posting any names, ages, phone numbers, school names, or locations. Refrain from making or posting plans and activities on your site.
- Consider going through your blog and profile and removing information that could put you at risk. Remember, anyone has access to your blog and profile, not just people you know.
More information about safer blogging is available in the NCMEC publication Blog Beware. Although the purpose of a social networking website is to meet people with similar interests and to swap information, it is important to ensure your child understands that these sites carry some risks along with the benefits. Communicating with your child is an important and effective strategy for keeping them safer. Talk with your children frequently, ask questions about their online activities, and regularly take a look at their profiles or blogs.space myspace.com facebook friendster zanga xanga hi5 bebo livejournal journal myyearbook yearbook stickam webkinz webkins