Social Media Moms

Can You Protect Your Kids from the Negative Side of Social Media?

3 Comments 18 January 2011

Its success is phenomenal, its population is the highest in the world, and it’s something we want to hate yet are addicted to – let’s face it, for all the noise that’s being created about Facebook’s privacy violations and its other negative aspects, this social network is racing away in terms of popularity. It has over 500 billion users, and even though most of them may not be active, it’s still something that everyone wants to try. Facebook is not something we really need – there are other ways to stay in touch, ways which are more private and where narcissism and voyeurism don’t play active roles. However, it is something that’s here to stay, and so we embrace it with open arms because we don’t want to miss out on the experiences that the entire world is taking part in.

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Coming back to the negative side of Facebook, proponents of this social network may argue that its pros and cons depend on how you use the site. If you’re responsible enough to avoid posting content that could have embarrassing and damaging consequences, if you’re smart enough to avoid getting addicted to this medium, if you know how to protect your privacy and that of your friends, and if you’re savvy enough to use its advantages and ignore its disadvantages, then Facebook is not really something you need to worry about. However, when your kids are on Facebook, it’s a whole other story.

There have been horror stories of parents coming home after a night away to see their homes trashed by hundreds of teens who came to attend a party after being invited to it on Facebook – a teenager who didn’t know better posted the news of her parents’ absence and a party’s presence, and things got out of control. There have been cases where children have given out personal details to strangers without being aware of the consequences of their actions. And there have been instances of kids being so addicted to Facebook that they lost sight of all their relationships and activities in the real world.

It’s not an easy task to protect your kids from the negative side of Facebook, but if you set your mind to it and are determined to safeguard their interests and their privacy, here’s what you must do:

  • Talk to them about the dangers that lurk in Facebook and the threat that it poses to their happiness and success – anything they do or say online stays there forever, and even minor indiscretions and embarrassments could come back to haunt them at a later date.
  • Forbidding them to use Facebook does not work; if you ban it at home, they’re only going to go behind your back and do things they shouldn’t do to spite you. So allow them to use Facebook, but know what they’re up to when they go online.
  • Some parents “friend” their kids so they can keep track of what they’re saying and posting online, but some kids circumvent this form of supervision by using two profiles, one for their parents and other members of family, and one for their friends. Some kids even block their parents out of their profile after accepting them as their “friends”. So the best way to be their “friend” and monitor them is to talk to them openly about why you need to be aware of their online activities. Kids appreciate honesty and don’t like it if you go behind their backs.
  • Don’t hound or stalk them on Facebook or leave messages and comments on their profile that embarrasses them in front of their friends. You earn their respect only when you give them yours.

The key to protecting your kids from the dark side of Facebook is to earn their trust and get them to share their online activities willingly with you. Remember a time when instant chat messengers raised similar concerns? Parents just have to ride the wave, use their common sense and discretion, and hope they and their kids emerge unscathed.

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This guest post is contributed by Bailey Digger, she writes on the topic of web design degrees . She welcomes your comments at her email id: baileydigger189(@)gmail(.)com.

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