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Preserve Your Child’s Innocence: How to Keep Your Kid Safe on Facebook

by Lori Taylor · 1 comment

the_guide_to_keeping_your_child_safe_on_facebookDo you remember the days when even the idea of your child crossing the street without your help sent a surge of overwhelming fear through your body? Even now, you hope and pray with all your heart that your child will return safely every time they leave your home.

But what about when your child is at home, online? The Internet knows no bounds and the usual barriers of age, looks, sex, time, and distance no longer apply.

As you watch your child tapping away on their tablet or phone, you wonder what they are really doing and who they might be doing it with.

Recent research found:

  • Ninety percent of teen social media users say they have ignored the mean behavior they have witnessed on a social network site.
  • Eighty percent say they have personally defended a victim of meanness and cruelty.
  • Seventy-nine percent say they have told someone to stop their mean behavior on a social network site.
  • Twenty-one percent say they have personally joined in on the harassment of others on a social network site.

This week’s featured Social Caffeine ebook is Keeping Your Child Safe on Facebook. You’ll learn how to be a responsible parent when your child wants to use the world’s most popular social network.

Keeping Your Child Safe on Facebook is FREE until January 25. Get your copy from Amazon here. Amazon UK users: get your copy here.

After January 25, the book will go back to its regular price of $2.99.

Just in case you’d like to try before you “buy”, here’s an excerpt:

How to Set-Up Your Child’s Facebook Profile

Child FacebookWould you send your child into a crowded New York street with their name, address, Social Security number, passport, and phone number stapled to their coat, neatly packaged with a 100 dollar bill?

Would you give passwords to their bank accounts to their friends? Of course not.

Have your child with you when you do a search for their name both through Google and through Facebook. What information is at the top of the results? Your child’s profile holds all the information you want it to and lots that you don’t. With intelligent use of security and privacy settings, you can protect the profile to a certain extent, but what if the account was hacked or your child mistakenly friended a bot?

How much information about your child is available?

Keeping Profiles Private

Your child must understand that Facebook is a place for friends, not publicity. Show them how to change their security settings so only their friends can see their profiles.

Facebook updates so regularly that where the privacy settings screen is placed will vary from month to month, but you can usually find it somewhere around the drop down arrow beside the Home link.

You have several options for your privacy settings including public (everyone), friends of friends, and friends only. Facebook has the default for minors of friends of friends, meaning that only friends of friends can request a friendship and receive status updates.

Switch everything to friends only, turn off third-party permissions, and disable geo-tagging. You can also build a block list of people who can’t access your child’s information.

You and your child must also be aware that when Facebook updates, these settings revert to the Facebook default. For an adult, that means everything is public; for a child, it goes back to friends of friends.

Limit Personal Information

Child Facebook 3Having your child’s privacy settings set to friends only is great, but remember that when Facebook updates, the settings revert to the default and accounts can get hacked.

Facebook gives users the option of entering personal details, including their name, birth date, hobbies, school, clubs, likes, relationship status, and anything else they want to add. The new geo tagging feature also automatically detects the approximate location of your child, even if you don’t physically enter a location.

Keeping your child’s Facebook profile to a minimum may be harder than you think. Kids love talking about themselves. They don’t get the chance to do it often and the idea of participating in grown-up stuff like filling out forms and having a site actually asking them for their opinion, likes, and feelings is seen as an awesome opportunity.

Facebook encourages this attitude with its advice on how to keep your friends updated, easily connect and give a more complete picture of how you spend your time, including your projects at work, the classes you take, and other activities you enjoy (like hiking or reading). You can even include the friends who share your experiences.

What 13-year-old wouldn’t want to do that? But for your child’s sake, they must withhold a great deal of the information they are encouraged to share, starting with their profile picture, name, and nickname.

Be Vague

Although Facebook only allows one account per person, you can choose what name your child appears under. You can use initials only, a nickname, or even a false name for your child, so even if the privacy settings fail, only people who know your child will find them online.

When creating the account name, remember that as your child ages, they will want to keep their Facebook page, so if you are using a nickname or fake name, make sure it doesn’t stray too far from their real one and that they will not look back on it in three years time and cringe.

Darling Dobby might be good for a 13-year-old, but for an 18-year-old, it is going to be an embarrassment. Only enter the birth date details necessary and only show the bare minimum allowed. The last thing they will be asked for is their email address. This will be used for logging in to their account, and for sending out notifications of comments.

Even if your child is responsible enough to handle replying to notifications themselves, creating a new address to limit the exposure of important personal details stored in your personal email is still a good idea.

You don’t want a Facebook bot hacking your personal email. If the Facebook account becomes an important tool for your child as they grow, they can always change their Facebook inbox at a later date.

You do not need to enter any other information to have a Facebook account, so don’t.

Profile Pictures

Under no circumstances allow your child to upload a picture of themselves as a profile picture.

For profile pictures, finding or creating a Gravatar instead of using your child’s real picture further protects them from unwanted eyes. Use a cartoon, a graphic, or even a picture of your family pet instead of their real image.

Their real friends will know what they look like and your child can always update it when they are older.

Limit Third-Party Applications

Child Facebook 2Show your child how to limit their exposure to third-party applications, such as games, relationship builders, and services that will smarten up their profile so they attract more friends.

Designed for little more than phishing, many of these applications may contain viruses and malware. What’s more, these applications are not part of the Facebook network and run under completely different rules to the Facebook terms. Third-party applications also include search engines.

When inside Facebook, uncheck the box where it asks you whether you want to be visible to third-party applications and websites and your child’s Facebook page will be invisible to any searcher.

Teach them to Think Before Posting.

As well as being a place to source information and develop new skills, children often think the Internet is an online diary. In particular, Facebook is used as a place to bare their soul and receive recognition, support, and sympathy from their peers.

Some feel that because they are not physically confronting people that what they are saying doesn’t mean as much. They feel that they can hide behind their profile and act with impunity.

They may see it as a game without rules where they can pretend to be someone they are not. They can become a Next Top Model contestant or boy band singer; some young teens even have profile pictures and names to match. Some choose to act out their angst with the world; others see it as a place to get even with someone who has wronged them or make fun of someone they consider inferior.

The perceived anonymity of Facebook can give children a confidence they don’t have in real life. This, combined with the chance of reaching a greater audience and the ignorance of youth, can lead them to say things to others online they would never dream of saying offline.

Sharing is a natural part of Facebook, and most teens don’t stop to consider how sharing the information and contact details will affect others. They also forget that online information lasts forever.

Your child may delete a picture from their page, but what about the people with whom they’ve shared it? What about the people with whom their friends have shared it? Or those who have used cut and paste to distribute the picture to other accounts and websites?

Deletion doesn’t mean destroyed.

Your child must realize that Facebook isn’t the place for unfiltered sharing, searching, and commenting, and that doing so can lead to serious consequences.
Facebook might give your child a wider audience and opportunities for social growth, but this is still a community where social values count. Cheating online is still cheating; bullying online is still bullying; and if your child wouldn’t say it in front of you, they shouldn’t say it online.

You probably know the story of Phoebe Prince, the teen who committed suicide as a direct result of bullying both at school and on Facebook.

In January 2012, a Staten Island teen committed suicide. Her family believes bullying she received on Facebook was the culprit. You can read the full article here. The comments from adults also make interesting reading.

Aside from bullying, as many as a third of students with mobiles are using them to cheat in exams according to this report.

The Huffington Post ran a story about how a harmless Facebook interaction escalated into an offline physical attack. A boy and girl were joking on Facebook when a second teenage girl joined the conversation and started making derogatory comments aimed at the girl. These comments included that the teen “shouldn’t have been born because [her] father was too busy having sex with other men.”

The conversation died off and the teens thought the issue was over until the conflicting girls were at the same party. The teenage girl who started the online fight recognized the other girl and attacked her, kicking her in the face and leaving her with four facial fractures.

So, regularly check to see what information is available to the public about your child and set up parental networks to inform others about changes in privacy settings.

Verify

Do not take wall posts as gospel. Bots are abundant on Facebook, so question anything that seems out of character or strange.

Teach your child to do the same.

If your child receives a wall post from a friend in trouble asking for money, they should question the legitimacy and verify the contents of the post. Their friend obviously still has some way of communicating because they posted on the wall, so ring, message, SMS, or email them and verify that the post is true.

Likewise, when a post from a friend appears claiming that getting a free iPad is as easy as clicking a link, teach them to instant message the friend and ask about the deal. Specifically ask how they found out about it and how many people they know who have received their free iPad.

By contacting their friends directly and getting to the core of the message, your child will notify them of problems within their account that need addressing.

Teach your child to check before they click.

Before clicking any link on Facebook, hover your mouse over it. It should say www.facebook.com/xxx and nothing else.

www.facebook.xxx.com is NOT a valid Facebook address.

Anything that appears too good to be true online probably is, so make sure your teen remains aware and has the confidence to question everything they see.

Delete Content

As well as teaching your child not to post things to their wall that aren’t meant for public sharing, also teach them to delete inappropriate content linked to or written on their wall.

Your teen may find themselves in an unsafe discussion or viewing inappropriate content because it has appeared in their friend feed. They believe that someone else approving the content makes it safe.

Teach them to use their own judgment. If they feel hesitant about a comment, a post, or a picture, they should remove it from their page immediately.

the_guide_to_keeping_your_child_safe_on_facebook

This blog post is an excerpt from the Social Caffeine ebook, Keeping Your Child Safe on Facebook. Download your copy from Amazon here. Amazon UK users: get your copy here.

Lori Taylor

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