1. Parenting

Facebook and Kids

How to Keep Your Kids Safe on Facebook

By

Facebook and Kids
Steven Puetzer/Getty Images - used by permission
Facebook is an online social network that allows people to connect and share with their friends. Since 2004, Facebook has experienced explosive world-wide growth. With over 900 million users, chances are good that you or someone in your family already has an account. But, in the age of cyberbullying and sexual predators, how can you keep your kids safe on Facebook?

Just as you concern yourself with who your kids hang out with, and where they spend their time, you should also concern yourself with what they're doing online, and Facebook is no exception.

Make a Plan, And Stick To It

Find time to talk with your kids about Facebook. Some kids know the dangers, but many kids don't think about, or realize the dangers of posting personal stuff online. Add to that Facebook's history of being loose with privacy defaults, and you've got lots of young people broadcasting stuff that they may not even know people can see.

This is where your parenting trumps their tech savvy. The reason most kids post stuff on Facebook is to get attention. It's the digital version of when your parents let you buy that new outfit and wear it to school the first day. But, many kids don't realize that those posts can garner unwanted attention. So a clear plan is best. Here are some topics for your heart-to-heart.

Photos

Photos are a big reason young people use Facebook. They want to show their friends who they were with, what they were wearing, and how good they looked at the beach. They post with certain people in mind that they are hoping will see it, like it, and talk about it. Facebook has a nice privacy feature called "Friends Only." On almost anything you post, you can choose this setting, which means the only people who can see it are people you're friends with on Facebook. Which brings me to the next important point.

Friend Requests

Your kids need to think about who they're friends with. Who do you want to see that picture of you in your front yard? Often, young people will accept friend requests from people they don't know, just to have more "friends." Or, if they have a friend or two in common, they will accept the request on the premise that they don't want to be rude. I'll admit that I've left a few requests in queue, not wanting to hit that "ignore" button. But, if you don't use the "friends only" setting, and you accept requests from people you barely know, you're broadcasting your personal stuff to a wide swath of people, and not all of them have good motives for checking your profile.

Also, just because you met someone at Six Flags does not mean they're a good candidate for your friend list. Help your kids think through what they post and who they're friends with, so that they (and you) can be assured that they're broadcasting only to people they wish to.

The Block Feature

"Blocking" someone on Facebook basically removes them from your Facebook life. They can't find you in Facebook search, or see your interactions with other people (even if they're friends with those people). Sometimes, it's easier to just block someone. This does not prevent them from finding your public profile through a Google search, but it will certainly keep them off your profile and from interacting with you in any way. There are lots of good reasons to block someone, and the person is not notified when you do it.

These are just a few conversation starters to bring up with your kids. Talking through these and helping your young one have a plan can help to engage them in managing their own privacy. Facebook also has a great section on their website dedicated to privacy and safety issues. Facebook is a fun tool that's become a part of everyday life for many people. Knowing the dangers, and how to protect yourself is half the battle. As a parent, it's a combination of teaching them to protect themselves and stepping in and protecting them yourself.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.