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I don’t claim to be an expert on Facebook or on being a parent but I do know a bit about both so I wanted to share some tips with those of you who are parents who do have kids on Facebook.
First of all, one of my biggest concerns is children who have accounts who are not 13. According to Consumer Reports, 7.5 million users are under the minimum age requirement. Do you know that these rules are there for a reason…because Facebook has to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Currently, Mark Zuckerberg is working to be able to permit those under 13 to get Facebook pages but until that changes, these kids, and sometimes their parents, are lying to obtain accounts. If you allow your children to lie to get a page, what are you teaching them?? Oh, it’s just a “little lie” right? Will it be ok when they lie about their age to get into an R rated movie, a dance club, a bar,buy cigarettes or beer??? Just think about that for a minute.
Know their password. I can hear some of you know. “Why do I need to know their PRIVATE password?” Uh, well because YOU are their parent and you have a right to keep them safe by being able to sign in to their account any time you want to see who their friends are and remove those friends that you don’t think your child should have, like the 30 year old man than your 16 daughter doesn’t even know but added him because they have 5 mutual friends. Oh and yes, it is ok to read their private messages too. Again, it is YOUR job to protect your children and you need to know if someone is contacting your child through private messages that has no business doing so.
Subscribe to their status. When you are signed in to your account, go to Account Settings and then click on Mobile. Set your phone up for text messages. After you do this, you will have a screen where you can choose who you want to receive status updates from. Start typing your child’s name in the box and click on it when you see it. Now whenever your child updates their status, you will receive a text. Why is this important? Because, our kids don’t always think before they post and since they can text their status from their phone (if they have texting, which most teens do), they might post something that you need to see. For example, one night my husband and I were away from home and I received a text. It was my teen daughter’s status saying she was scared because she was home alone and it was about to storm. I called her immediately and told her to remove it! Even though we have her privacy settings set to only friends can see her status, I still don’t want people knowing when my kids are home alone.
Do not allow them to post ANY pictures unless you approve them first. They take their cute little photos and don’t really understand that the pose or expression they have can be seen as provocative or inappropriate and can follow them for the rest of their life. Their pictures can also lead criminals right to your child by landmarks, license plate numbers, etc. When you look at the picture, you see with a parent’s point of view and can point out why the picture may not be the best choice for them to share with the entire world. EVEN IF YOUR CHILD HAS A PRIVATE PAGE, THEIR UPLOADED PICS CAN BE DOWNLOADED AND POSTED BY OTHER PEOPLE!!!
With EVERYONE having cameras on their cell phones now, there may be times when pictures of your children are posted by others…teach your children to always be careful of their actions because the chances of their activity being posted and something they think is harmless can really come back to haunt them in the future. Tell them to ask themselves if what they are doing would get them in trouble with their parents or grandparents…if so then don’t do it because chances are, you are going to see it anyway and then they really will get in trouble. Even if they aren’t concerned about getting in trouble with you, their photos and activities CAN affect their future education or jobs. 70% of college admissions offices use Facebook to screen their applicants!
Speaking of camera phones, check your child’s phone settings to make sure that when they upload pics, it isn’t showing their location. Many of the smart phones do that now. I uploaded a picture to Twitter one day and when I went back to look at it, it had posted my HOME ADDRESS as the location! I certainly didn’t like that.
Another thought on location. Now that people can “check in” on Facebook and tag who they are with, your child and your home become more vulnerable to people who want to do harm. This site has screen shots with step by step instructions on how to disable Facebook Places and keep people from checking your child in.
I have talked to some of the teens I work with at church and told them about this article that I was writing. Some of them actually told me that they hope their parents don’t read it. What does that tell ya? Parents, you need to be aware. I hope this helped you learn a little bit and will open up the door to communicating with your child about Facebook.
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