What should parents do to protect children on Facebook?

Dear Stop It Now!
Facebook is testing out ways that children under age 13 can register to be a Facebook user. Should parents worry about this? How can children be protected on social media sites?
 

Dear Concerned Adult,
Children’s access to online information and involvement in cyber communities continues to increase. It is a familiar story that parents and all caring, concerned adults have faced for as long as there have been children – how to adapt the rules and safety planning for children when their environment is constantly changing.  Whether it is technology advancements, community shifts or redefining relationships in their lives, addressing the risks of any situation can keep a parent on edge, unsure of how to best protect his or her child.

Like any new situation, keeping children safe, whether in an online community or in their own neighborhoods and homes requires parents to stay involved.  When parents have the tools to help guide their children in their use of digital media, they can influence the safety of the online environment to better protect their children.

Parents can teach their children that rules of safety in the home apply to the cyber world. Just as children are taught not invite strangers into their home, they can be guided to not allow strangers access to their profiles and other personal information.

Helping children understand that the world of the internet is a public world, where anyone can have access to personal information can help them understand that sites like Facebook are not safe or appropriate places to post personal or sensitive information, to respond to stranger’s requests or to post pictures that could get them in trouble. Parents should be specific about the type of personal information or kinds of pictures that should not be posted publicly. Additionally, parents can help children with their privacy settings and many parents require their children to "friend" them on Facebook.

To help get started, read our online information on Preparing for Internet Safety. The two following resources can further help parents plan for safety with digitial media:

Parents need to stay connected to their children’s cyber world interactions; regularly monitoring and responding to their children’s activities online. By practicing safety planning that includes consistent parental supervision and engagement, modeling healthy boundaries and learning warning signs of possible at-risk situations, parents can help their children participate in social media in ways that are fun and safe. 

Take Care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 1st, 2012