Facebook turned 7 years old this month. Hard to believe that a college student and his buddies invented it and now it has spread so quickly that more than 40% of the U.S. population has a Facebook account. Talk about going viral.
While this social network phenomenon started out as a tool for college kids, it has rapidly grown to include a younger and younger audience. Facebook rules state that a user must be 13 years or older to have a Facebook account. However, there is no way to verify this so there are many kids that are younger than that with their own accounts.
How do you protect your kids from the questionable material on Facebook?
- Don’t let them get an account. Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s the truth. The best way to protect your kids is to make sure they don’t have an account before they are old enough.
- Make sure your child friends you. You need to watch what your child is posting on their friends’ walls and what kind of stuff is being posted on their wall.
- Make sure your child only friends people they know in real life. Anyone can send you a friend request if you are a friend of a friend etc. This can be an open invitation for predators.
- Discuss boundaries with your child. Your child needs to know that he/she should not post any personal information online. No reference to their full name, name of their school, their address or their birthday.
- Limit your child’s access to the computer. Computers are a way of life, but as a parent you want to be able to monitor what your child is doing on the computer. Make sure the computer is in a central location like the living room or office.
- Invest in parental control software that monitors your child’s computer activity. You can’t always be with your child. If you have software like that specializes in monitoring your child’s keystrokes, you can see exactly what your child is doing on the computer and on Facebook accounts even if you aren’t home.
- Do not allow your kids to post pictures. Pictures lead to online bullying and sometimes too much information. What if your child posts a picture from his soccer game? Seems innocent enough, but this gives out personal information that may put children at risk from a predator.
- Allow your child to use your Facebook account. This may sound funny, but if they aren’t posting under their own name they may be more conscientious. Plus, you will indeed have access to see everything they have posted.
- Make sure you have their passwords. There is no such thing as privacy in your house. You should have their e-mail password as well as their Facebook password.
- Make sure you set the privacy settings on Facebook. Facebook will show your phone number and other personal information if you don’t turn it off. Make sure you are there to help your child set up their account.