Social networking sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Yahoo! 360, and others may seem to be a good way for your kids to connect with their friends, know more about the people they meet at school, and to find new people online. However, these sites may also become a venue for online predators to search, know, and target your kids which may definitely put them in danger.
The question now for parents would be: How can I ensure the safety of my kids when they use social networking sites?
To answer this question, you need to focus on 3 things: personal identity, profile privacy, and photos.
This includes your kids’ name, home address, home phone number, cell phone number, email address, school information, interests, and others. Teach them not to post their personal information on these sites. Explain to them why. That way, your kids will know that it is dangerous. The alternative? Instead of giving their name to tell them to use a handle; instead of a complete address, just the state or town; and instead of using their primary email address, tell them to create a secondary dedicated for this purpose. And, tell them not to post their phone numbers online. The key is: be vague on posting personal information to their profile.
Most social networking sites give options that will give the user the option to secure their profile from access. This way, the information that your kids have in their profile will only be viewed by people whom they are directly connected. This will also keep unwanted people from viewing their profile and using it in a predatory purpose. Thus, tell your kids to keep their profile secured.
Online predators often view photos of users to judge if that person is a good victim. So, to keep your kids from being a target, review all the pictures they want to post on their profile. Make sure that all photos they will post don’t reveal identifiable landmarks that can trace them easily such as street names, doorsteps of your house, and plate numbers of your cars.
Other helpful ways of keeping your kids safe when using social networking sites:
Set clear rules about their limitations on using these sites such as schedule and frequency. Make sure you both agree on these. Also, set a consequence if they break this rule.
Tell your kids not to post any blogs that contain their emotional vulnerability since online predators can use this as a weakness to victimize kids.
Finally, sit with your kids and make their profiles open to your access.