Social Networking Safety Tips for Kids

Written by Jennifer James | Read Safety Tips for Kids Who Use Wireless Devices | Sponsored by bNetS@vvy

As a mom blogger I am constantly receiving emails from companies that “just launched an ultra safe social network for children”. How an “ultra safe social network for kids” can be created is beyond me, but I see it all the time.

My two girls are 9 and 12 and my husband and I don’t think they’re old enough quite yet to be involved in social networking sites. I’m sure it isn’t such a big deal, but simply understanding the pace of social media and how monitoring it can be difficult we simply forbid these sites altogether. I can never be 100% sure that the person they “friend” is a peer. I am always suspicious that the “friend” may, in fact, be an adult posing as a child. It’s no wonder I get very apprehensive about sites that allow children to connect online.

I am sure there are a lot of parents out there like us. And I’m also sure there are many parents who think we need to push our girls out of the nest and let them dabble in social networking. Whatever side of the fence you fall on, bNetS@vvy provides safety tips for adults on how to keep children safe while using social networking sites. One thing is certain: all children will use the sites eventually.

Social Networking Safety Tips for Kids

Monitor Your Child’s Social Networking Use: It is becoming more difficult to monitor your children’s social networking use because many of these sites have mobile companion apps. But you can take the power back and ensure they tell you their username and password so you can check in on them whenever you want to monitor their activity. Also, don’t be afraid to view the recent history on any computer they use. It will help you figure out the sites they frequent and how much time they spend there.

For tweens and teens it is understandable to want to give them space. However, you can join the same social networking sites they’re members of and monitor their use by being connected to them virtually. I know some parents who require their children to friend them on Facebook or else they cannot be a part of the site at all.

Understand Sites’ Privacy Settings: Social networking sites give their users various levels of privacy settings, so just because you are your teen’s friend on Facebook they may have blocked you from seeing some of their posted information. Make sure you understand the privacy settings of each social network and make sure they give you access to all of the information they are sharing with their friends.

Know the Language: Social networking language is far different than the language we use every day. Do you know what “LOL” means? Of course you do. Everybody does. Written by Jennifer James | Sponsored by bNetS@vvy

What about “MOS”. It means “mom over shoulder”. It is important that you learn kid shorthand because you can be sitting right next to your child and have no idea what they are talking about. It’s cool for kids to talk in code, so the more you know, the better. Check out bNetS@vvy’s comprehensive cheat sheet here.

School Your Children on Being Discreet: Oftentimes children do not understand that oversharing can be a bad thing. Make sure they know not to tell the Internet world their real name, address, social security number, phone number, license plate number, date of birth and even their credit card number, if they have one. Scammers are quite crafty and often scam adults. Think about how easy it would be to scam a child.

Remind Your Kids About Permanence: Just because everything on the Internet can be deleted, make sure you stress to your child that once information is posted, it’s out there forever. Make sure yoru your child understands to be careful about the type of information they share online and make them live by this question. When posting tell them to ask themselves would they be embarrassed about what they are going to post if they were face-to-face with their friends. If the answer is yes, they shouldn’t post it.

For more safety tips about social networking, visit bNetS@vvy.

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Comment by Mom on the Run on June 28, 2010 at 12:55am
I kept my 14 yo off Facebook until the day she turned 14. Most of her friends got their accounts in 5th or 6th grade. Since I am in social media, I was able to ensure that she knew the ins and outs of having a social media account. I set ground rules...only friend people you have met in person. She has about 100 friends while her paks have closer to 500. She knows that her dad and I have her password to check her status updates. Keep communications lines open.

I am an advocate for online safety. I have promoted a social network for tweens and teens since 2009. I am a Test Drive Mom for Yoursphere: a social networking site with controls for preventing adults from joining kids on the site. I feel assured that my 3 kids are playing in Yoursphere with kids only. Yoursphere is now a free site. If you join Yoursphere use code YSMC-0051 to activate free membership. You don't need the code, but if you use the code you will be entered to win a giftcard and I will be entered for a drawing for a gift card, too. I have a bunch of posts on my blog, but my blog is down due to bandwidth limitations.
Comment by Louise on June 25, 2010 at 11:10pm
I just wrote a post about this Jennifer. ;-) It kind of ties into both of your articles on this. http://momstart.com/2010/06/relationship-trumps-all/

Basically it says that you have to understand technology yourself, Be in the know, and then communicate with your kids so you are in Their In the know. Know what they are up to!
Comment by Mimi on June 25, 2010 at 9:19pm
I had to learn all of this safety stuff starting about 6 yrs ago when my girls started using the computer. I would check their IMs just to see how they were talking online. Not reading everything, mostly scanning.

When Facebook first started up, I got an account, too. I'm friends with their friends so they added me, which made my monitoring a lot easier! If I saw one of the girls (mine or friends) posting their DOB, where the lived, etc, I would give them a hard time in a fun way while trying to tell them seriously that they needed to be careful about what info they gave out.

I did talk to my girls about bullying and that if I ever found them doing it there would be severe consequences. I never expected it knowing my girls, but I figure it doesn't hurt to just say something. I also said if they were ever bullied that I'd be sure to jump in and help them out.

With my boys online, they are allowed to play non-interactive games say at Disney or Nick Jr. sites. They've used Webkins, too, all while I have a bit of monitering. I don't sit looking over their shoulders because they need to learn how to navigate through the sites. I want them to know I trust them meanwhile checking in regularly.

My boys won't be getting FB pages until they're into their teens...easily. For safety sake at this point.

I am definitely a POS. =)
Comment by Danielle Garcia on June 25, 2010 at 11:28am
My oldest is 9 and wants very badly to have a facebook account. Several of her cousins that are around the same age have one and she does not understand why she is not allowed. I explain it very simply: it is against both the household rules AND facebook rules. Our rule (for facebook anyway) is that when she is old enough to get an account without having to lie about her age or birthdate, she can get one (with house rules still attached), until then, she can communicate with her cousins via mine or my husbands accounts. This way we can better monitor what is happening and we know the friends on the site. So I guess my safety rule is to obey the age guidelines of the site and be sure to establish your own ground rules as well. Also, be sure that all devices with internet access are kept in a common living area. Kids are less likely to break the family rules if anyone can see what they are doing. We even have our computer hooked up to our living room tv so at any time we can turn the tv to the computer setting and see exactly what they are doing, without being over their shoulder.
Comment by Robin Gagnon on June 25, 2010 at 10:41am
Be aware that the social networking accounts your kids tell you about are quite likely not to be the only ones they have. Just friending them on FB with the account they tell you about is not enough. Crosscheck there site log-ins with account posts, and look for patterns that don't jive.
Comment by Maggie McGary on June 25, 2010 at 8:47am
I think the most important thing parents can do to help their kids be safe online is to be familiar with the tools themselves, rather than bury their heads in the sand about social media. Yes, Facebook can be a huge waste of time, but if you have kids who use it, you need to use it yourself so you can be familiar with the privacy settings and their frequent changes. I also think it should be a rule that if your child is using Facebook, the caveat should be that they have to "friend" at least one parent--and parents should regularly check what kind of stuff they're posting.

Of course Facebook is far from the only social networking site parents have to worry about; http://www.connectsafely.org/ is a great website that all parents with kids who are online should follow to keep abreast of new sites and trends.

Lastly, http://bitmoms.com/ is a good source of information about online safety for kids (I'm a BitMom blogger).

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