When my 13-year-old son said, “All my friends have pages on Facebook” and then asked me “What’s Facebook, and can I have one?” – I have to admit, I cringed. Letting your kid loose on the Internet is a bit like sending them out after dark and hoping for the best. But I digress…
First, I told him that Facebook is like an online yearbook with people commenting on each other’s pages and sharing pictures, videos, and more. I said, “if you don’t set your privacy settings correctly, anyone can see what’s going on in your life including hackers and creeps.” It was a week night so I told him we would set up his page over the weekend, together. But he didn’t ask again…
Time waits for no mom
A month later, on our way back from vacationing in Baja California, my son casually informed me that he had created his own Facebook page, some time ago, and recently had been posting to his friends. Hmmmm. He quickly added that he set up his privacy settings “…so everything is alright Mom.”
I took a deep breath and advised him that he should only friend people he knows and not give out too much personal information, or post anything he would not want anyone to see for the rest of his life… Then I asked him who his friends are. He said he has over 100 friends, and, to give the kid credit, he knows all of them.
Getting into it
Well, first of all, even though my kid set up his page without asking me, I’m not going to flip out. He told me he had his own page when he began using it, and took my advice on privacy settings. However, we need to talk about trust, and why it’s important to be up front with your Mom, before he dives into something new. We will go over his Facebook privacy settings, referring to Vic Hargrave’s blog Facebook privacy controls get a facelift to get the advanced settings working right.
Next, we will install the free Smart Surfing for iOS on his new iPod Touch. Smart Surfing for Mac is already on our computer. Security will keep him from clicking on malicious links or downloading bad apps. I’ll ask him to friend me. And his older cousins that he’s already friended, we will keep an eye on things. And I’ll suggest he become a fan of Trend Micro Fearless Web Internet Security—to understand where his Mom is coming from and keep up with Facebook and other cool social media while avoiding cyber scams.
Parents can help a lot
I’m a busy, working mom and don’t have time to ‘copter my kid. But I believe that familiarity with social networking sites and how to use them is a great way to engage your kids in conversation, share, and be aware of what they are doing online. Here is an article on the 7 dumbest things that people do on Facebook. Don’t let your kid do them.
Talking about trust and checking in from time to time helps kids set their own parameters. My son might think I’m an overprotective Mom because I work for an Internet security company, and he may be right. But, like snow skiing, kayaking, or driving in a car, when it comes to social networking on the Internet, proactive security and awareness are no different than wearing a helmet, sunscreen, or a seatbelt.
Ensuring that your kids have a positive online experience is a lot like teaching them to swim when they are young. You have to get into the water with them.
What’s your experience?
I work for Trend Micro and opinions expressed here are my own.
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