Internet Safety / Social Networking

Children and Social Networking
If your child is thinking about using social networking sites, there are many ways to help them do so safely and appropriately. Discuss online safety with your child and guide them in their usage of social networking sites by suggesting they:

  • Keep control of their information by restricting access to their page
  • Keep their full name, address, telephone number, social security number, and bank or credit card number to themselves
  • Post only information they are comfortable with everyone seeing
  • Talk to you before considering meeting anyone face to face they have met online, and review the risks involved

Young people need support and education to develop the skills needed to understand the risks and opportunities of social networking sites. Talk to your child before they sign up for an account about:

  • The rules in your household on social networking sites
  • The monitoring you will do on their internet usage
  • The limits on time allowed on these sites that may occur if their usage interferes with family time or external social activities

Why Do Children Use Social Media?
Youth use social media for many of the same reasons adults do. The research of psychologists and sociologists shows us that they use social networking sites for:

  • Socializing or “hanging out” with their friends (mostly the same friends they have at school)
  • Day-to-day news about their friends, acquaintances, relatives and peer groups
  • Collaborating on school work
  • Validation or emotional support
  • Self-expression and the identity exploration and formation that occurs in adolescent development
  • What sociologists call “informal learning,” or learning outside of formal settings such as school, including learning social norms and social literacy
  • Learning the technical skills of the digital age, which many business people feel are essential to professional development
  • Discovering and exploring interests, both academic and future professional interests
  • Learning about the world beyond their immediate home and school environments
  • Civic engagement – participating in causes that are meaningful to them

Youth-Risk Research
Research has found five key risk behaviors associated with social media:

  1. Young people who behave aggressively on the internet are more than twice as likely to be victimized online; thus, a child’s own behavior on social media is key to their online well-being
  2. The most common risk young people face online is peer harassment or aggression such as hurtful or defamatory behavior
  3. A child’s psycho-social makeup and physical environment (for example, home and school) are better predictors of risk than any technology the child uses
  4. Not all children are equally at risk online; in fact, the children who are most at risk online are those who are most at risk in “real life,” or offline
  5. Although, for the vast majority of youth, online social networking is largely a reflection of offline life, it can also amplify, perpetuate and widely distribute real-life problems or conflicts very quickly. Something posted in anger or on impulse is extremely difficult to take back, so it has never been more important for users (of any age) to think before they post online or send a text message

Social Networking Risks
Risks to children on social media can include:

  • Harassment or online bullying (“cyberbullying”) on the part of your children or others’
  • The posting of information about themselves that could: a) be used to embarrass or manipulate them; b) cause psychological harm; c) be used by criminals to steal their identity, property or – though very rare – determine their location to cause physical harm
  • Damage to reputation or future prospects because of young people’s own behavior or that of their peers – unkind or angry posts, compromising photos or videos, or group conflict depicted in text and imagery
  • Spending too much time online, losing a sense of balance in their activities (“too much” is subjective, which is why parents need to be engaged)
  • Exposure to inappropriate content (this too is subjective) – although, typically, worse content can be found out on the web at large than on Facebook or other responsible social networking sites
  • Potential for inappropriate contact with adults (parents need to ensure that social networking does not lead to offline contact unapproved by them)

 Reduce Incidents of Crime

  • Don’t use a weak password: Use eight or more characters and combine letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
  • Don’t post a child’s full name in a caption. If someone else does, delete it by clicking “Remove Tag.”
  • Don’t mention being away from home. Doing so is like putting a “no one’s home” sign on the door.
  • Don’t permit youngsters to use Facebook unsupervised.  An adult in the same household should become one of their online friends and use their email as the contact for the account in order to receive notification and monitor activity. 

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