If you are a parent and you have any teenage kids then the term “Social Networking” should not be new to you. If it doesn’t mean anything to you just think Facebook, MySpace, Twitter. These are some of the most popular and well known social networking sites. There are literally millions of users with accounts on these free sites. At first glance they just seem like a fun part of adolescent development. But you may want to look a little deeper.
Unfortunately most teens don’t realize the dangers that an online presence can present. Some very basic online safety tips to think of include:
- Privacy Settings: Know what the default settings are and then change them! You want as much information as possible to be kept safe.
- Who to Friend: Don’t add every person that sends you a friend request and don’t send friend requests to people you don’t know personally. It is very easy to create a false online presence. Just because he/she has a cute picture, doesn’t mean he/she is someone you want to have access to everything you say online.
- Think BEFORE You Speak: or write in this case. Don’t post ANYTHING that you wouldn’t want EVERYONE to read. Just because you don’t have everyone on your friend list doesn’t mean someone else can’t repost what you said. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. There is no getting it back and no controlling where else it goes.
- Don’t Reveal Personal Information: Do NOT list your full name, phone number or physical address. This includes dates, times, and addresses of parties. You never know who will get the info and show up. These sites have become prime stalking grounds for sexual predators.
- LIVE: The cyber world is NOT the real world. Don’t get so caught up in your online life that you never see or talk to anyone in “real” life. Turn off the computer and go outside. Go skating, hiking, biking – YES get some exercise! It is a great way to fight off depression, drug addiction, teen stress! Give it a try!
Parent Contracts! What more can we say. It is easy to tell your kids something and have it go in one ear and out the other without ever really processing. Write it down, spell it out, read it out loud, make your teen read it out loud and then sign it! If you have some hard and fast rule about what is acceptable and what is not and what the consequences are of not following the rules, you have at least made every effort to keep your teen safe. Don’t let cyber bullying become a part of your teen’s life. School bullying is hard enough to avoid. Let’s try to keep from inviting any more problems into the lives or our already struggling teen’s lives!