While social networking sites can be an exciting place to meet up with virtual friends and exchange ideas, they also increase your exposure to less-than-friendly people with other intentions on their minds. Kids especially are particularly vulnerable to the many sexual predators who stalk social networking sites looking for likely prey. Parents need to understand that these risks are real and take the necessary precautions.
Talking to your kids before-hand about the dangers of social networking is the best way to them safe. Lay the ground rules for internet online usage, but make sure you tell kids why it needs to be done. How much you tell them and the boundaries you decide to set depends on your kids’ ages and their computer know-how, and will have to be reviewed regularly as they grow.
Here are some of the precautionary measures that need to be re-enforced no matter how old your kids are.
Remind them to never share personal information about themselves or their family with any stranger online. Information including their real name, address, name of their school or even sports clubs that they play for can be used to find anyone offline.
Discourage your kids from using their real names or any other screen names that could be directly linked to them. For people who want to, it can be very easy to combine the clues and figure out who the person is and where they can be found.
Install internet filtering software on your computer to restrict access to unacceptable site. Regularly monitor the chat rooms that your child frequents, even if it is a kid-friendly site. Restrict access to your child’s website and only allow family and friends from their school or local club to view it and to post their views.
Most important of all, encourage your kids to come to you if something does happen that makes them feel in the least bit uncomfortable or threatened. Kids need to learn to make their own judgments but they also need to know that you are there to support them when things go wrong. And a lot of things could go wrong when kids use social networking sites.