As an involved parent, you probably already know that keeping an online journal or a rapidly updating 'profile page' on popular social networking sites (MySpace, Bebo, LiveSpaces or Facebook) is common practice amongst teens and preteens. Often, these websites can be viewed by any person with Internet access and this can put your child at risk.
On most social networking websites, children can post profiles that include videos, photos, and personal information such as their address, phone number, birthday, and full names. Kids use these sites to connect with others, whether they're halfway around the world or right next door. The sites often allow for instant messaging, games, and other communication tools.
Unfortunately, some of the information posted on social networking sites could make your child vulnerable to predators. Keep reading for five great ways to help your child use social networking websites safely.
1. Don't use full names. If you're going to allow your child to use social networking sites, have them use a nickname or their first name, but never full names.
2. Monitor your child's profile. Insist on access to view and monitor your child's public page. Check for any private personal information, such as addresses or cell numbers, that could pose a security risk to your child.
3. Never allow your child to meet anyone in person who they've only met online. Children can be in serious danger if they go to meet people whom they've only met through the Internet.
4. Consider setting site restrictions. Most social networking sites allow users to set privacy settings, therefore making their profiles available only to certain approved users. This is a good way to limit access to your child's information.
5. Remove the page. If your child refuses to abide by your safety rules, consider contacting the web site and having the page removed or investigating the use of Internet filtering tools to block access to the site.