As part of an ongoing series this week about online and mobile safety, Family Online Safety Institute CEO, Stephen Balkam, is here to provide tips to help keep your family safer online. Yesterday’s topic dealt with mobile safety and today we’re taking about Facebook.
Tech Savvy Mama: We know that Facebook Terms of Service prohibit kids under the age of 13 for signing up for an account however, research shared at this year’s annual FOSI conference demonstrated a staggering number of kids lie about their age to gain access to online content. Are there strategies that you can recommend to parents to help keep their kids safer while using Facebook?
Stephen Balkam:I am personally friends with my teenager on Facebook and I’ve found that to be very helpful. Actually, accepting me as her first friend was a contingency for my teen joining the site.
It is very hard for kids to fully grasp the idea that potentially everything they put on the Internet is permanent. Rather than trying to communicate this, ask them if what they are putting online is something they would share with their grandparents, another respected adult, or at a school assembly! This can really put it into perspective for kids.
Also talk to kids about the reality of the Internet – not all people are who they say they are. Remind your kids that they should know every person that they connect with on a personal level. This is also important messaging to use to discuss how they should interact with others on social networking sites. Kids need to remember that there is a real human, with real feelings, behind the Facebook profile. Facebook, and the Internet generally, is NOT the place to say or do things you would not normally say or do in person, including teasing or even bullying another person.
We do know from some of FOSI and Pew’s recent research that most kids have witnessed mean or cruel behavior on these sites. It’s best practice for parents to ask kids about their experiences online. If they are witnessing mean behavior or are the victims, asking them about their experiences might make them more willing to come clean about a bad situation. Also, show them how they can report bad or troubling posts on Facebook and other social networking sites.
This is part of a series of posts from my interview with Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI. Additional topics this week include: