Teach Children to Stay Safe on Social Networks
As social networking attracts new audiences, online security is a growing concern for parents. According to iStrategy Labs, the number of Facebook users age 13 to 18 increased by 88 percent in 2009 to 10.7 million. While Facebook and MySpace require all users to be at least 13 years old, some sites do not have minimum age requirements. Social networking sites can be used in a safe manner, but they can also be exploited.
“Kids may appear to be more familiar with computers and the Internet than their parents,” said Angie Barnett, President and CEO of BBB | Greater Maryland. “However, it’s important to remember that children may not understand the various threats that lurk online. Parents need to educate their children on how to play it safe online.”
BBB offers the following tips for parents to help keep their kids safe on social networks:
- Explain the difference between sharing and over sharing. While social networking is about connecting with people, kids should never share personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, bank account numbers, passwords or their Social Security number. Talk about what constitutes inappropriate photos or language and stress the fact that, once something is posted, it can never fully be taken back, even if deleted.
- Join them online. Parents should set up their own account in the same social networks as their children. This will help better understand what social networking is all about. Parents can also “Friend” their child and keep an unobtrusive eye on what they are doing.
- “Never talk to strangers” applies online too. One of the first rules kids learn is to never talk to strangers. Parents should remind children that the rule holds true when online. Even though chatting with a stranger online can seem harmless, the relationship can evolve and grow until the stranger has earned a child’s trust, and can then exploit it.
- Set strict privacy settings. Most social networking sites let users determine who they want to share information with. Advise children about restricting access to social network profiles to only friends or users in safe networks such as their school, clubs or church groups.
- Keep the channels of communication open. Let kids know that you are always ready to talk if they are ever threatened, bullied or feel uncomfortable about an experience they had online. Report concerns about harassment or other privacy concerns directly with the site administrators. You can learn more about how to keep your kids safe online visit http://www.safecanada.ca.
Federal law requires sites collecting identifying information from children under 13 to get a parent’s consent first. Report concerns about data collection from children under 13 to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus at www.caru.org/complaint.
You can learn more about how to keep your kids safe online at http://www.onguardonline.gov/topics/net-cetera.aspx.
To learn more about online safety and more savvy consumer tips visit bbb.org.