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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Social Networks Safety Guide for Parents, Kids

Being a youth speaker and technology expert, I have to ask: Do you know what social networks your kids are using? If you don’t, you better find out and if you’re not already using them, you need to start, or at the very least have a firm understanding of how these services work and how kids can use them.

Aside from understanding these networks, how else can families keep their kids safe on social networks, or know when a good time to allow them to use them is?  Here’s a complete guide for families – including a checklist of discussion topics and rules to understand and implement – to address questions that many have about getting their kids started on social networks.

Think of this helpful resource, yours free of charge courtesy of one youth speaker who loves seeing parents and kids more positively connect, as a quick how-to guide for your teaching your family all about social networks.

Discussion Topics:

What is so important about social networks?

What sorts of activities are okay on social networks?  Which are not?

Who will you be friends with online?

How will you interact with them?

What happens if you get a friend request from strangers?

What social networks sites are okay for our family?

Are there any time limits our family will have for social networks?

What’s the process for parents to check on their kids’ activity?

Will our family use monitoring software to track behavior?

What times of day is it okay to access social networks? When is it not?

What personal information is okay to discuss on social networks, and what is not?

What will you do if you come across bad behavior such as cyberbullying online?

What are your family’s biggest concerns about social networks, and how will you avoid them?

And make sure you continue the dialogue after initial set-up phase.  Talk to your teens about what they’re doing on social networks.  Whether it’s about a specific funny status update or article you saw to general feelings about the service and current events, using the social network as a starting point can lead to great conversations with your kids.

Rules:

Avoid Negative Situations

Avoid saying anything negative about specific people, places, your co-workers or your boss. It’s likely that anything you say on a social network would find its way back to them, and presents the potential for negative consequence such as a loss of job, troubles getting into college, or similar issues to occur later down the road.

Keep the Future in Mind

Although no one knows exactly what the future holds, chances are your kids will be applying to colleges after high school, and soon after that entering the work force. In the future, those making life-changing decisions about your child’s life are sure to examine their social media profiles in addition to any other information they’ve made public.  So remind kids that the things they post now can and likely will be used against them, even if it’s five or ten years down the line.

Treat Information Like It’s Permanent

Everything that’s done, said, or shared on social networks needs to be treated as if it cannot be taken back. Because it can’t. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and even if you remove it from your profile or timeline, it’s likely it was already seen by others, and in some cases may have been reshared.

Do Unto Others…

Don’t share any photos or other information that is embarrassing, unflattering or controversial to anyone. If a subject raises even the slightest question in your mind, it’s best to just erase it before hitting the “post,” “tweet,” or “share” button

Use Real Life Common Sense

Don’t spread rumors, innuendo, name-calling and negative gossip. If you can’t back up what it is you’re posting online by being willing to say it directly to others in real life, then don’t put it out there.

Track Their Time

After you set your time limits, come up with a timer or other way to track your kids’ online social network usage.  It’s easy to whittle away the hours checking out photos or interacting with friends, time which often is supposed to be used for more important tasks, like homework.

Police Yourself

Don’t be afraid to ask others to remove photos, videos, comments or tags of you from their profile which you don’t approve of. Any friends won’t want to do anything which could offend you or make you feel comfortable, and it will likely even spark a dialogue as to what is and isn’t inappropriate for others to share about you.

Respect Boundaries

Although we do recommend you connect with your kids on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or any other social network they may be on, you as a parent need to also know your boundaries, just as you do in real life. To avoid embarrassment or overstepping your bounds, refrain from publicly posting to their timeline on Facebook and don’t follow their friends on Facebook.

Provide Balance

Encourage your kid to spend at least an equivalent amount of time as they spend on social networks in real-life activities. Whether it’s simply requiring certain communication to be done via phone or in person or setting aside time in activities not related to online social activities, experts agree that a healthy balance between online time spent on social networks and other outdoor activities is essential for a balanced lifestyle. When kids are on social networks, consider pointing out if real-life friends are online – and encourage them to connect more in the actual world.

Resources:

Connect Safely Guide To Facebook

This 36-page guide dedicated exclusively to Facebook is put together by Internet Safety experts Larry Magid and Anne Collier.

Facebook Family Safety Center

Facebook safety page featuring broad overviews as well as detailed categories for teachers, teens, parents and law enforcement.

Twitter Safety Tips for Parents

Twitter Basics page designed for parents to answer questions about aspects of teen safety for users of the service.

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