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What Is Your Teen Doing on Facebook?

Q: How do you keep your kids safe while online?

Use child-protection software.

Limit time online.

They can take care of themselves.

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So what can be done to keep your kids safe online? Restricting your child from using any social networking site is impractical and perhaps a little excessive. Computers are available almost everywhere now, so an alternative approach would be to educate your child about the potential risks these sites pose, and about how to stay safe when using them. Some simple yet effective ways to let your child safely socialize online include the following:

  • Carefully select which social networking site your child wants to join. Most social networking sites will allow anybody to create a profile, but most have age restrictions that do not allow anyone under the age of 14 to join. If your teen's sole purpose is to keep in touch with friends, chances are all her friends will be on the same networking site.
  • Monitor your child's network usage. It is not unreasonable to insist on knowing your child's password for logging onto any social networking site. This will help you keep track of whom she is talking to and the kind of information she is posting on her profile. If you feel this is too invasive, create your own profile and request your child as a friend. That way you can still monitor her profile without being overbearing or nosy. It is also reasonable to set limits on how much time your child spends on the sites each day.
  • Keep your child's personal information private. There is no need for your child to post his address, phone number, Social Security number, or any other personal information on his profile. Posting personal information makes it easier for online predators to learn your child's identity and to find him offline. If your child is going to post personal information, make sure that he posts only those facts that he is comfortable with everyone knowing. Also remember: Once he posts information online, he can't take it back. Even deleted information may still exist in older versions of the site on others' computers.
  • Set the privacy settings to restrict access to your child's page. Your child's friends will still be able to access and view her whole profile, but outside users and anyone who is not on her friend list will not.
  • Reject friend requests from anyone your child does not know. Even if the requestor claims to be a friend of a friend, be wary of anyone your child has never met.
  • Be wary of strangers who want to meet in person. The simplest solution to this issue is to refuse to let your child meet in person anyone she met online, unless you are present.
  • Report any suspicious behavior. If you or your child feels threatened by or uncomfortable about something online, report it to the social networking site and, if necessary, to the police.
  • It's inevitable that your child will be introduced to social networking sites, if he hasn't been already. These sites can be excellent tools for self-expression and for keeping in touch with friends and family. Generally, the risks and dangers these sites pose are minimal. However, it is important to be aware of potential risks, and to know what your child is doing online. Communicate with your child about potential hazards on these sites. By educating your child, you will increase the chances that he will stay safe while cruising the vast world of the Internet. For more tips on teen Internet usage, read advice from our experts.

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