Do you have any idea what your kids do on Facebook? Are you certain they are safe? Find out now.
There are plenty of things to keep in mind as a parent. Starting with teaching kids to use Facebook responsibly and setting time limits for Internet use. But there is so much more to know and deal with.
Ask Your Kid To Demonstrate
Rather than laying down the law to begin with, ask your kid to demonstrate what they do on Facebook (and elsewhere) and how they do it. If it helps, maybe act clueless and ask them to show you what to do. This will allow you to both see how Internet-savvy they are and to check if they’re habitually doing anything that looks a little dangerous.
Keep the conversation open by asking “Really?”, “And then what do you do?”, but also add the question “Is that a little risky?” to see if they have already assessed the risk and taken precautions. You may find they are quite competent already.
Try not to overreact if they’ve been exposed to something inappropriate or have been chatting to the wrong person. What’s important in the long run is that your kids trust you and will come to you if they notice anything dodgy while they’re online. If you punish them hastily you might not be kept in the loop next time, and that could be disastrous.
Clean Up Their Profile, Friends & Apps
For starters, make sure your kids have the correct age in their Facebook profile. This will entitle them to certain privacy protections and limits imposed by Facebook which will help them until they turn 18.
Occasionally check over their profile to make sure they’re not giving away sensitive information like their address, phone number or school name. View it as yourself, a random friend and a complete stranger to see what everyone can see (use the privacy “View As” feature while logged in as your child). Talk through the process with your kids too and explain why it’s important.
Check who they are friends with, as most privacy settings will share information with all of your child’s Facebook friends. If they’ve friended a stranger or some other undesirable, you’d best de-friend the person and explain to your child carefully why this is required. See if you can get your kid to show you their friend requests before approving in the future so you can talk to them about the people first.
Also check out the Facebook apps & games your child has installed. Some apps are really dodgy and only exist to harvest data from your profile. You may also find inappropriate apps have been installed by your child – get rid of them.
Also check the pages your child has liked on Facebook. Not only may some of these be inappropriate for their age or just outright embarrassing, but your child is being drip-fed information from these pages on a regular basis. If left unchecked, these pages are also viewable by the public and through Facebook Graph Search, which could be a privacy concern or possibly cost your teen their first job.
Privacy For Teenagers On Facebook
A while back, I wrote a Facebook privacy guide for teenagers. If you’re a parent of a teenager, it’s also worth taking a read as you may learn something. It goes into both the how and the why of Facebook Privacy settings, including making friends lists, protecting your physical safety, avoiding annoyances, protecting yourself against crime, how to avoid embarrassing photos going public, stopping marketers from finding out all about you, easy mistakes to avoid making and how to maintain your good reputation generally.
I won’t rehash it all here as there’s so much else for parents to worry about, but please read it. Your kids might not know all of this, and even if they read it themselves, they will no doubt remember different things.
Avoiding Expensive Mistakes
Teenagers can easily make big mistakes on Facebook, including looking like a fool, getting fired for saying something dumb, getting sued, trusting the wrong person, or racking up a huge bill somewhere. It’s worth learning how to avoid making expensive mistakes on Facebook, so read up on it.
Adblock For Kids & Teens
Adverts are renowned for their persuasive abilities, especially when it comes to kids. For this reason alone it’s worth hiding them from view when your kids are online. But on the Internet with unskilled users at the helm we have other reasons: stray clicks.
Leave a child in charge of a mouse for 5 minutes and they will inevitably click on a random advert without meaning to. Leave a teenager in charge of the computer and they may well decide to buy something after seeing that advert.
Add to this the possibility of completely inappropriate advertising being shown in the first place and we have a compelling case for using Adblock whenever your kids are online. That said, your kids will be using the web alone someday, so intermittent exposure with guidance is probably a good thing.
Parents usually worry about their child getting hurt by online interactions, and they often forget to monitor whether their child is behaving badly — for example, bullying other kids.
It’s tricky to spot at times, but start by simply watching them and making sure they don’t make any hurtful comments on photos or other updates. Talk to them about why this counts as bullying and that they have moral and legal reasons to avoid cyberbullying, especially as the poor sufferer never gets a break from the cyberbullies. Most teens don’t actually think they’re bullying until it’s pointed out to them. Check out StopCyberBullying.org if you’re not sure yourself.
As for protecting your child from bullying, we have a number of articles that may help, including websites that can help children and parents with bullying worries, steps to take on Facebook to report harassment and avoid bullies and reasons to try not to let your bully bother you.
We even have a longer story detailing one girl’s tragic cyberbullying tale and how much she and her parents had to go through. There is a lot of really useful advice in these articles about getting through cyberbullying, so please do read them if you have need of the information.
Critical Thinking & Scams
Facebook is just one of many places online where kids and teenagers will need to have good critical thinking skills in order to survive. While you watch them on Facebook, try to teach them how to tell if a news story is true, how to avoid rip-off deals and how to recognise a typical Facebook clickjacking scam.
Public Shaming & Lessons
Whatever you do, don’t try to use Facebook as a lesson as this could backfire pretty quickly. Recently, a mother’s Facebook lesson to her 12-year-old daughter got out of hand. She tried to show her daughter how quickly a photo could spread on social media and it worked so well that 4Chan users started using the image to tell off the mother. The mother got a bigger lesson in social media from this, I’d say.
Similarly, I think the modern practice of public shaming of kids via social media is abhorrent. No matter how tempting it may seem, you can probably find another way to discipline your kids that isn’t so permanent. Public shaming via social media is similar to tattooing “thief” on a child’s arm for eating the last biscuit (minus the pain of the tattoo, of course). Protect your kids from making crazy mistakes on the Internet, don’t cause them.
Use Software To Monitor Your Kids If Required
If you can’t seem to talk sense into your child, many parents resort to monitoring their kids online with software. All kids need guidance in order to become sensible, safe Internet users, but for some kids, a bit of software as backup might be just what you need. We previously debated whether parents should spy on their kids or not, so take a read if you’re not sure where you stand.
Parents and teenagers, what do you (or your parents) do to ensure child safety online? We’d love to hear examples of people doing it right.