My mom came from the McCarthy communist hunt era. She would always say, "Don't write anything you wouldn't want everyone to read and don't sign anything without reading it...you might be admitting you are a communist." As a kid, I had no idea what she was talking about, but those words stuck with me. I am careful about what I write, and I am careful with emails and the internet too. Unfortunately our kids don't have the same concerns, and they need help to stay safe on social networking sites.
Kids as young as 10 are now on Facebook or other sites where they sign up and communicate with their friends and strangers. It's time to have the "safe network" talk...even before you have the "safe sex" talk. Here are a few tips to help:
- Only join sites where you can control the users or "friends" who view your information. Help kids with the security settings to control the restrictions and information.
- Keep information private. Don't post your address, phone number, any private numbers like social security. Even names of the school or where you hang out or work should be kept private.
- Pick a different screen name. Don't pick one with sexual innuendos.
- Post only information that you would want a teacher, employer, college recruiter, grandmother to see. Even restricted sites are not guaranteed.
- Once something is posted, it cannot be taken back. "Delete" is not guaranteed and posts can be copied and reposted on other sites. The internet is forever.
- If you post a photo, make sure it is one that is tasteful. Photos can be altered but there isn't much you can do about that except not post a photo.
- Never flirt with strangers. Period.
- Never meet someone in person that you don't know.
- If something seems wrong online, trust your gut and tell an adult. Cyber-bullying, scams, hoaxes are everywhere and should never be on social networking sites.
- Never click on ads or other appealing pop-ups. This is a way to open up your computer to viruses and to let others get at your private information.
I think social networking is here to stay. Kids never use the telephone or email any more. They text their friends and chat on the computer to large groups of friends. For more information, check out
On Guard Online, Get Net Wise, or Wired Safety. They provide good info for parents in keeping kids safe on social networking sites.