Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facebook 101

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the largest social networking site on the Internet where people share personal info and photos, play games, plan events and engage in live chat.  Facebook represents a virtual world online where people can do just about everything they can do in the physical world, removing the actual physical presence.

Although there are many benefits to this online world such as positive social interaction, the ability to keep up with vast amounts of people, self expression and civic engagements, there are dangers as well.  As parents we need to educate our children about these dangers to help protect them.

Let's review some of them here:

1) Harassment - Example - "I hate you, you're a pig" is posted on your son's Facebook page for everyone to see.

2) Viral spread of personal info - Example - Son posts a party picture and his online friend shares with the school counselor. 

3) Detachment from the physical world - Example - Son spends too much time on the Internet and loses touch with real world: schoolwork, sports, family etc.

4) Geo Location Applications - Example - Facebook Places is enabled and your son checks in when he goes places, showing people where he is.

5) Inappropriate Contact - Example - Your son receives a friend request from someone he does not know and accepts because he wants a lot of friends.

Here are some ways to protect your child from the risks listed above:

1) Talk to them about Cyberbullying.  Let them know it is not okay and that you are there to help.  No matter what.

2) Explain that they are trusting every friend they choose with their personal info and to choose friends and content to be posted wisely.  

3) Limit your child's time online.

4) Review privacy settings to ensure that no geo location features are enabled and they are not sharing their information with friends of friends. 

5) Tell them to only accept friends the know in the real world and make sure people are who they say they are.

Finally, education is only the first step.  Children need to be guided and monitored as they grow to keep them in check, and watch out for them.  Consider installing software that monitors your child's behavior online.

For a more in-depth review of Facebook and how to protect your child please see "A Parent's Guide to Facebook" written by Anne Collier and Larry Magid, Co-Directors of 

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